Broadway’s latest musical by Michael R Jackson is now officially open! But what have critics had to say about it?

© Marc J Franklin

WhatsOnStage: “As Jackson’s script has been refined, Stephen Brackett’s production has also gotten sharper. Arnulfo Maldonado’s set is versatile enough to facilitate a fast-moving, liquid style of storytelling, as are Montana Levi Blanco’s costumes. Jen Schriever lights the corners of Usher’s mind to allow for transitions as rapid as a sudden thought. Raja Feather Kelly’s nimble choreography endows the production with old-fashioned showmanship.”

Variety: “A Strange Loop is heady and wordy; Jackson’s score is more linguistically than musically inventive, and it’s an unfortunate consequence that some lyrics get swallowed up in the larger space. There’s a feeling of surfeit messiness, like a sprung-open closet whose chaotic contents fill the room, that a Broadway house allows audiences to appreciate with greater perspective. It’s like stepping back to admire an extraordinary portrait of the artist as a tangle of contradictions, desires and painful memories. In other words, it’s like the experience of life itself.”

Time Out: ***** ” The COVID shutdown had a lot of us holding our breaths that Broadway would dare to offer something bold and new when it came back. This is the musical we’ve been waiting for.”

Slant Magazine: “A Strange Loop relies upon that level of introspective over-complication to make the case that Usher’s thoughts deserve a stage to themselves. In proving that they do, and in bringing Usher’s vivid and complex inner life all the way to Broadway with such gripping vibrancy, Jackson nudges the musical theater form in a startling, new direction.”

Entertainment Weekly: “But A Strange Loop will stand out for so much more than that. It’s a story that emphasizes the importance of persevering even amid crippling self-doubt and self-hatred, that reminds us that those voices in our head can undermine our own greatness, that challenges us to confront some of the unresolved relationships in our lives to find healing, and that shows us that there is change possible in the seemingly endless cycle of hopelessness.”

LA Times: ““A Strange Loop,” which had its premiere off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 2019, is directed by Stephen Brackett with agile precision. The slipperiness of this looping, self-referential work demands a vigorous level of theatrical control, which the production maintains even when the story momentarily gets stuck in a repetitive groove.”

Deadline: “Spivey, in this scene and throughout the musical, is a marvel of dexterity, moving quickly and expertly from laughs to heartbreak, from music to monologue, and he’s matched every step by a fabulous, mixed-gender and physically diverse ensemble that gives voice to the Thoughts and the parents and the ghosts and the hook-ups (one of the latter even enacting a graphic act of simulated – and thoroughly degrading – sex)”

New York Post: “Spivey, making his Broadway debut, manages to sell that risqué material with his charm, innocence and good spirits. The audience feels almost maternal toward the guy — wanting to protect him and guide him through these ordeals in the way that Usher’s own parents refuse to. The character often speaks in silent, hilarious glances, and Spivey makes a meal of them.”

New York Theatre Guide: ***** “A Strange Loop’s director Stephen Brackett and choreographer Raja Feather Kelly bravely punctuate each perverse and revelatory ode that Jackson has penned into his work. But none of this would be possible without the phenomenal cast, who count as the funniest and most thrilling group of singers currently on Broadway. Chief among them, L Morgan Lee, James Jackson Jr., and John-Andrew Morrison provide sensational vocals and painfully hilarious personifications of Jackson’s thoughts.”

Talkin’ Broadway: “For all its sometimes rough language and interactions, A Strange Loop has a sense of humor about itself, and it definitely has a big heart. The music is coupled with clever lyrics with references you may pick up on, to Stephen Sondheim and Jonathan Larson and others. Michael R. Jackson has also acknowledged being inspired by the singer Liz Phair, who, along with Tori Amos and Joni Mitchell, dwell collectively within Usher as his “inner white girl.””

The Wrap: “Have I mentioned that Jackson wrote the music, lyrics and the book for “Loop”? Typically, that three-hat trick in the musical theater world is the mark of death. Jackson wears all hats with fabulous style.”

New York “this is a piece full of craft and rigor, and nobody is writing off Michael R. Jackson, a big gay Black guy who’s no longer struggling to write a musical…”

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