A New York Theatre Guide to... freestyle love supreme!
The Broadway premiere of freestyle love supreme continues its extended run at the Booth Theatre through January 12, 2020.
From humble beginnings in Weslayan University in Middletown, Connecticut, to the bright lights of Broadway! The hip-hop improv group known as freestyle love supreme was co-created in 2003 by Hamilton mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda and director Thomas Kail, alongside current member Anthony Veneziale. And though FLS has toured the world, performing at comedy festivals from Edinburgh to Montreal to Melbourne, it could not feel more at home than at the Booth Theatre on the Great White Way, where it began its Broadway debut engagement on September 13, 2019, before an official opening to rave reviews on October 2.
What’s it all about?
No two performances of freestyle love supreme are the same and that’s due to the improvisational format of the show. FLS is a combination of rap artistry, music and improv comedy at its absolute best! With three emcees, a beatboxer, two musicians and a couple of special guests thrown in for good measure, FLS elicits suggestions from the audience in attendance and spins them into spontaneous freestyle raps or even full, comedy-infused scenes in jaw-dropping fashion. Whether it is just a verb, something we love (or loathe), or an audience member’s entire day so far, the FLS members work their lyrical magic to weave these into a highly entertaining narrative before our very eyes in 90 non-stop minutes of freestyle heaven.
Who’s starring in it?
freestyle love supreme boasts a rotating cast of performers, all equally innovative, for each performance. The core group led by co-creator Anthony Veneziale (aka Two Touch) includes Utkarsh Ambudkar (aka UTK the INC.), Andrew Bancroft (aka Jelly Donut), Aneesa Folds (aka Young Nees), Arthur Lewis (aka Arthur the Geniuses), Kaila Mullady (aka Kaiser Rözé), and Chris Sullivan (aka Shockwave). If you are extra lucky, you may just witness a special cameo appearance from such Hamilton alumi as Tony Award winner Daveed Diggs (aka Mr. Diggs), Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart (aka J-Soul), Tony Award nominee Christopher Jackson (aka C-Jack) or even Lin-Manuel Miranda (aka Lin-Man) himself, who are all booked to appear at sporadic performances throughout the Broadway run. Other special guests include Ashley Pérez Flanagan (aka Reina Fire), Bill Sherman (aka King Sherman) and last, but by no means least, multiple Emmy Award winner Wayne Brady!
What’s special about this production?
This is certainly not your typical night out on Broadway, folks! There is simply nothing else like freestyle love supreme currently on offer on the Great White Way and although some purists might shy away from such a genre, I, for one, am thrilled that this unique kind of artistry has been given the opportunity to be showcased on such a mainstream platform. On the night I attended, freestyle raps about subjects as diverse as Marvel’s Avengers, naptime, bikini waxes and one night stands with priests-in-training were all spit and lapped up by the audience.
The beauty of FLS is that it is a shared experience. The performers are reliant on the audience and the limitations of its imagination and they also employ such a supportive demeanor, as they gather the audience’s input. Nobody is subjected to ridicule or embarrassment. We’re in this together. And the pace of the freestyle raps and the creative, quick-thinking and intellectual ways they surface are simply mind-boggling. It’s equally impressive to hear the singing vocals, harmonies and fully-realized musical numbers in the show too. Furthermore, in such a male-dominated world as hip hop, it’s great to see women such as Aneesa, Kaila and Ashley included in the mix, and it’s always a pleasure to experience a racially diverse cast on Broadway to boot.
Who would we recommend it to?
Due to some extremely colorful language and adult themes at the performance I attended, I would only recommend freestyle love supreme for those aged 16 and above. If you love a bit of audience participation, then this is the Broadway show for you, but don’t worry, if you’re a little more reserved, you can always just sit back and let others chime in. So, gather a bunch of your friends (or grab your partner for Date Night), head down to the Booth Theatre and get ready for the beat to drop!
Check out our video guide to FLS from the show's director and co-creator, Thomas Kail here...
freestyle love supreme Tickets are available now for performances through January 12, 2020.
(Photos by Joan Marcus)