All the times Alicia Keys did theatre
The recording icon has gone from theatre producer to influencer to composer-lyricist, now debuting her new musical, Hell's Kitchen, at The Public Theater.
Some people want it all, and Alicia Keys is one of them. The musician has won 16 Grammys and sold 90 million records since her recording debut just over two decades ago. Her various vocal references – R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop – and thoughtful lyrics add up to her distinct, irresistible sound and style. Throughout her music career, she has captivated audiences and other performers around the globe, not to mention close to home.
The 43-year-old music icon from New York City now looks to herself for inspiration for her latest career challenge. Hell’s Kitchen, her semi-autobiographical coming-of-age musical set in her home neighborhood in Manhattan, premiered off Broadway in October 2023 and marks Keys’s debut as a musical theatre composer and lyricist. Now, Hell's Kitchen transfers to Broadway from 2024 — Keys has sure come a long way from playing Dorothy in her preschool run of The Wizard of Oz.
Are we psyched? Hell yes. The show marks an exciting brand extension of this star’s talents into theatre. It’s an artform that for her is mostly – but not totally – uncharted territory. Find out more about Keys’s theatre credits below.
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Keys assumed a dual role for Lydia R. Diamond’s 2011 Broadway play about a family in Martha’s Vineyard. Keys was a producer and composed original music heard between scene changes in the production directed by Kenny Leon.
For Keys, it was a chance to reconnect with theatre. She forged a deep connection with the stage in her youth. “I want more people to experience it like I experienced it when I was young and the way that it made me travel into different worlds,” she said in an interview about Stick Fly.
Keys didn’t compose the songs in this show about the half-dozen wives of Henry VII, but her soulful style influenced the R&B-driven ballad “I Don’t Need Your Love.” The tune is sung by Catherine Parr, who actually survived the monarch, and makes a point about existing without him.
The song’s unvarnished self-empowerment recalls Keys’s “A Woman’s Worth,” whose lyrics caution: “You will lose if you choose to refuse to put her first.” Queen!
Keys has famously sung about having “a pocketful of dreams.” So does 17-year-old Ali (as in, short for Alicia), a New York City girl with ambitious visions in this show that has been in the works for over a decade. Life, love, and a passion for piano all factor into where her future leads.
The show features songs (a mix of new and existing hits) by Keys, a book by Kristoffer Diaz, and direction by Michael Greif. In an interview, Keys called creating her first musical “a major, major turning point in my journey.”
Discover where that trip has taken Keys. Get Hell's Kitchen tickets now.
Photo credit: Alicia Keys. (Photo courtesy of production)
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