‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Review: How Alicia Keys Got Her Groove

‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Review: How Alicia Keys Got Her Groove

During the Golden Age of musical theater, it was common for shows to struggle and lose audience interest after intermission, leading critics to coin the term “second act trouble” to describe the phenomenon. This problem often manifested as disjointed songs, rushed plot developments, and illogical crises. Despite these struggles, ambitious new musicals like “Hell’s Kitchen,” based on the life and catalog of Alicia Keys, still manage to thrill audiences before the mid-show break.

However, after intermission, “Hell’s Kitchen” disappointingly falls into the same pitfalls that plague many jukebox musicals. Jukebox musicals, especially those that are biographical, tend to face unique challenges due to the source material and original artists’ involvement. This can lead to historical inaccuracies, a rushed narrative, and a reliance on songs to drive the story.

Surprisingly, “Hell’s Kitchen” manages to avoid many of these pitfalls in its first act. The show sets up the story with notable efficiency, introducing the main characters, setting, plot, and conflicts with remarkable verve. This is achieved while incorporating a diverse range of music from Keys’ catalog, expanding the show’s horizon beyond R&B and pop.

However, as the second act unfolds, the show begins to struggle with plot development, relying heavily on dramatic clichés and an abundance of songs, resulting in a disjointed and uneven narrative. Despite these challenges, the production boasts impressive performances, engaging orchestrations, and visually striking set design.

Overall, “Hell’s Kitchen” shows promise and potential but ultimately suffers from the storytelling limitations that often plague jukebox musicals. Its first act successfully establishes a compelling narrative, but the second act struggles to maintain the same level of engagement. With some refinement, “Hell’s Kitchen” has the potential to reach a wider audience and resonate with fans of Alicia Keys’ music.

The article provides insights into the challenges of creating a jukebox musical and the difficulties of translating popular music into a coherent theatrical narrative. Despite its flaws, “Hell’s Kitchen” highlights the potential of storytelling through music and holds promise for future development.

Additionally, the article touches on the historic context of jukebox musicals and the challenges faced by biographical productions. This provides readers with a broader understanding of the complexities involved in adapting real-life stories and music into a theatrical setting.

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