Everything you need to know about Alicia Keys’s musical 'Hell's Kitchen'

After a world-premiere run at The Public Theater, the show, loosely inspired by Keys's own experiences in the title Manhattan neighborhood, comes to Broadway.

Joe Dziemianowicz
Joe Dziemianowicz

This show is on fire! Hell’s Kitchen, the new musical featuring the songs of 16-time Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys, is really cooking. Immediately after wrapping its world-premiere run at The Public Theater, the show is moving to Broadway, beginning performances on March 28.

Marking Keys's debut as the creator of a theatrical production, Hell’s Kitchen is loosely based on her adolescent experiences in the New York City neighborhood that gives the show its title. The musical features a mix of Keys's existing and new songs as it follows 17-year-old Ali (you see what they’re doing there) as she awakens to the world around her — good, bad, artistic, and full of opportunity.

Working in concert with Keys’s evocative, emotionally charged music is an urban coming-of-age story by playwright Kristoffer Diaz and a dynamic staging by director Michael Greif. Before Hell’s Kitchen begins performances at the Shubert Theatre in March, learn more about the show’s cast, history, and production information.

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What is Hell's Kitchen about?

In 1990s NYC, 17-year-old Ali is on the brink of becoming an adult, of finding her passion, and of making her own decisions. “Ali sees her city as a place of opportunity,” New York Theatre Guide’s four-star review reads.

That includes the chance for romance. Ali is looking for love – and it looks like she’s found it thanks to a hunky older bucket drummer. He pounds out his beckoning beats outside her apartment at Manhattan Plaza, a federally subsidized housing complex for artists.

Ali pursues her crush, much to his surprise and to the chagrin of her fiercely protective mother, Jersey. She aims to keep her daughter from following her bumpy life’s path. One of those bumps was Davis, Ali’s long-gone father. Amid the discordant mother-daughter drama and twists and turns of first love, Ali discovers her gift for music, one that’s bright enough to light her future.

Where is Hell's Kitchen playing?

Hell's Kitchen is playing off Broadway at The Public Theater through January 14. The theatre complex is located at 425 Lafayette Street in Manhattan.

On March 28, Hell’s Kitchen begins Broadway performances at the Shubert Theatre, located at 225 W. 44th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.

How long is Hell's Kitchen?

Hell's Kitchen runs 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission. This is a typical off-Broadway and Broadway musical length, though musicals can run anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours. Intermissions are usually either 15 or 20 minutes long.

What days is Hell's Kitchen playing?

Hell's Kitchen plays eight performances a week at The Public Theater and will do likewise at the Shubert Theatre, with performances usually scheduled every day except Monday. For the complete performance schedule and showtimes, please visit the Hell’s Kitchen page.

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When did Hell's Kitchen premiere?

The Hell's Kitchen musical had its world premiere off Broadway at the Public Theater in October 2023 after being in the works for over a decade. Discover a full developmental timeline of the show’s history below.

  • 1981: Keys, the daughter of a white mother and Black father (like her alter ego Ali), was born in NYC and grew up at Manhattan Plaza, a housing complex largely home to artists located in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Drawn to the arts, Keys became a classically trained pianist who began writing songs as a teen.
  • 2001: After graduating at the top of her Professional Performing Arts School class and studying briefly at Columbia University, Keys released her debut album, Songs in A Minor. The album featured the hit single, "Fallin’," which appears in the score of Hell’s Kitchen. Keys has since released eight more studio albums.
  • 2011: Keys co-produced and wrote original music for the Broadway production of Lydia R. Diamond’s family dramedy Stick Fly. The project “ignited this desire” to venture into theatrical storytelling, Keys said in an interview. Hell’s Kitchen book writer Kristoffer Diaz joined the project around the same time.
  • 2018: Michael Greif, the seasoned musical theatre director of Rent and Dear Evan Hansen, joined the project. He directed the show at both The Public Theater and on Broadway.
  • 2023: Hell’s Kitchen is announced as part of the Public Theater’s 2023-2024 season. The show began performances on October 24, 2023.
  • 2024: Hell’s Kitchen transfers to Broadway, beginning performances at the Shubert Theatre on March 28.

Who wrote Hell's Kitchen?

The Hell's Kitchen musical features a score by Alicia Keys that combines her famous hits, lesser-known songs, new tunes written for the stage, and previously unreleased music.

The Hell's Kitchen book is by Kristoffer Diaz, whose play about a professional wrestler, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, was a 2010 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

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Hell's Kitchen characters

The Hell's Kitchen characters include various people in 1990s New York City. They include teenagers who, like Ali, are high school students, as well as members of her family, her love interest, and her piano teacher. Below are the main characters of the Hell's Kitchen musical.

  • Ali: A 17-year-old girl awakening to first love, the desire for independence, and the possibility of becoming an artist.
  • Jersey: Ali’s single mom who works two jobs and toils overtime to protect her daughter from repeating poor choices she made as a teenager.
  • Knuck: Ali’s older crush. He is a building painter and street drummer who uses an area near Manhattan Plaza as his stage.
  • Davis: Ali’s absentee dad, a pianist who can turn on the charm and play 88 keys like nobody’s business.
  • Miss Liza Jane: Ali’s strict but compassionate piano teacher, whose tutorials go beyond chord progressions to be invaluable life lessons.
  • Other characters: Supporting players include Ali’s friends, Knuck’s fellow percussionists, and Ali’s watchful doorman.

Who is in the cast of Hell's Kitchen?

The cast of the Off-Broadway premiere of the Hell's Kitchen musical features a combination of theatre veterans and newcomers, including Maleah Joi Moon as Ali, Shoshana Bean as Jersey, Chris Lee as Knuck, Tony winner Brandon Victor Dixon as Davis, and Kecia Lewis as Miss Liza Jane.

The Hell's Kitchen Broadway cast has yet to be announced. Check back for updates on casting for Hell's Kitchen on Broadway.

Hell's Kitchen songs

The songs in the Hell’s Kitchen musical are all by Keys, who wrote both the music and the lyrics. The score features a mix of existing songs and three new tunes: "The River," "Kaleidoscope" (both written prior to Hell's Kitchen but never released) and "Seventeen" (written for the show). Here are all the songs in Hell's Kitchen off Broadway; this song list is subject to change ahead of the Broadway opening.

Act 1

  • "The Gospel"
  • "The River"
  • "Seventeen"
  • "You Don't Know My Name"
  • "Kaleidoscope"
  • "Gramercy Park"
  • "Not Even the King"
  • "Teenage Love Affair"
  • "Un-thinkable (I'm Ready)"
  • "Girl on Fire"
  • "Perfect Way to Die"

Act 2

  • "Authors of Forever"
  • "Heartburn"
  • "Love Looks Better"
  • "Work on It"
  • "Authors of Forever (Reprise)"
  • "Fallin’"
  • "If I Ain't Got You"
  • "Pawn It All"
  • "Like You'll Never See Me Again"
  • "When It's All Over"
  • "Hallelujah/Like Water"
  • "No One"
  • "Empire State of Mind"

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What awards has Hell's Kitchen won?

Hell's Kitchen just premiered in the 2023-24 theatre seasons and has yet to be nominated for awards. The musical will be eligible for awards toward the end of the 2023-2024 season in late spring.

The musical's individual creators, however, have all earned nominations and wins for many awards. Songwriter Keys has 16 Grammy Awards among dozens of other honors, book writer Diaz is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and director Greif has four Tony Award nominations.

Major productions of Hell's Kitchen

The 2023 Off-Broadway and 2024 Broadway stagings of Hell's Kitchen are the show's only major productions thus far. Should the musical continue to succeed, national and international productions could bring Hell's Kitchen far beyond the neighborhood it's named for.

Fun facts about Hell's Kitchen

Did you know that Keys isn't the only famous artist to have called Hell's Kitchen home, and she's also in the company of fellow NYC locals on the Hell's Kitchen creative team? Learn more fun facts about the title neighborhood and the musical it inspired.

  • Famous former residents of the Manhattan Plaza apartment complex (besides Keys) include Larry David, Christian Slater, Angela Lansbury, and Tennesee Williams. Plus, Samuel L. Jackson worked as a security guard there.
  • Hell’s Kitchen marks Kristoffer Diaz's Broadway debut.
  • The show’s lead creators are all New York natives. Keys grew up in Manhattan, Diaz hails from Yonkers and now lives in Brooklyn, Grief is a Brooklyn boy, and choreographer Camille A. Brown is from Queens.
  • Ali’s two maternal influences loom large in Hell’s Kitchen: her single mom, here called Jersey, and her piano teacher, called Miss Liza Jane. Jersey's mantra: “Sit and eat.” Miss Liza Jane’s: “Come sit. Play.”
  • Hell's Kitchen is one of two musicals coming to Broadway via the Public in spring 2024; the other is Shaina Taub's Suffs, about the suffrage movement. They join a long line of Public-to-Broadway shows, which also includes Hamilton.

How to get Hell's Kitchen tickets

Hell's Kitchen is an urban coming-of-age musical inspired by the life and the music of its creator: superstar singer/songwriter Alicia Keys. Motored by Keys’s emotionally charged music, the show’s story of following a passion and finding oneself has far-reaching appeal.

Get Hell's Kitchen tickets now.

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Photo credit: Hell's Kitchen at The Public Theater. (Photos by Joan Marcus)

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