Review: HITS! THE MUSICAL at Straz Center

Twenty-nine performers, ages 10 - 22, mesmerized the audience with song and dance

By: Apr. 03, 2023
Review: HITS! THE MUSICAL at Straz Center
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Review: HITS! THE MUSICAL at Straz Center

There have only been a few times in my life that I was at a loss for words. Yesterday was one of them. I went to Hits! The Musical with high expectations, having interviewed one of the executive producers, Bob Gries. The lights dimmed, the curtain rose, and we went on a flawless, nonstop, electric high-energy tour of the greatest hits of the last 50 years.

Every single vocalist and ballet to modern to breakdance dancer was exceptional. The talent I saw on stage brought me to tears. The musical direction perfection by Tony Bruno, Cynthia Nekvasil, and Camille Trust was complimented by the spectacular lighting by Aleksander Skowron. The beautiful costumes by Claire Mezzeta and Amaya Coleman delivered scene after scene, and the choreography by Grady Bowman - chef's kiss.

It wasn't just a performance; it was an emotional experience unlike I have ever had in my years of writing for Broadway World.

Review: HITS! THE MUSICAL at Straz Center Under the expert direction of Nekvasil, Jaleep Battles, Jr., Belle Bongiorno, Nasir Butler, JJ Carandang, Connor Closs, Julia Davo, Jaedon Diaz, Kassidy Gavagan, Genevieve Godlesky, Lili Greenberg, Nella Hilden, D'Corey Johnson, Mia Leberknight, McKenzie Lewis, Colin Mash, Kaylie Molina, Assata Sun, Brooke Neuman, Loren Prisuta, Alyssa Raghu, Jacob Rassi, Karsen Taylor, Shawn Taylor, Madeline Underwood, Jaaziah Vallano, Jacob Vella, Matthew Jost, Jose Wright, and Kaitlin Yamano earned the thunderous applause and standing ovation.

With Mash as our songbird emcee, the show's first act paid tribute to Hollywood and Broadway, followed by a rock medley. The second act showcased the sounds of the decades - 1960s to 2000s. Each story was narrated by Mash, leading into the production with voiceovers from our history and memorable storylines like Y2K.

Review: HITS! THE MUSICAL at Straz Center What was especially beautiful about the show is the songs didn't stick to the gender of the original artist. For example, Bongiorno rocked The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," while Johnson belted Aretha Franklin's "Respect."

The cast had mere seconds to breathe before seamlessly jumping from one musical vignette to the next, with 500 costume changes and performing some of my favorite songs from familiar musicals, films, rap, pop, and rock anthems. The show was a crash course in music history from Hair to Madonna, Eminem to Abba, Singing in the Rain to Prince, and literally everything in between.

Review: HITS! THE MUSICAL at Straz Center Four particularly moving moments featured Karsen Taylor's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," complete with sparkly red shoes, and the cast performing "Age of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In." Another goosebump-worthy performance used John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr voiceovers, followed by a pantomime of police brutality in Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," while another emotional moment came from one of the performers signing to Roberta Flack's "Where is the Love."

Executive-produced by Dionne Warwick, Damon Elliott, Thaddeus Bullard, Shea Hughes, and Gries, this show will stand the test of time. The audience was filled with people of all ages, proving you don't have to know the music to appreciate the dance choreography and the powerhouse voices. Patrons were dancing in their seats, singing along with tunes of their childhood. Some of the families of the cast held up signs and lovingly did the heart symbol with their hands. We were mesmerized.

From the back of the theatre, mid-show, a baritone called out, "Best show ever!"

I know of nothing that exists like this city-to-city, one-show-only touring production. I've not yet had the privilege to see a show on Broadway, but I imagine this is what it feels like, and I wholeheartedly agree: Best. Show. Ever!


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