‘A Strange Loop’ brings representation to Broadway


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Alejandro Teodoro, Staff Writer

Michael R. Jackson’s “A Strange Loop” has caught audiences’ eyes after winning two Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical, alongside the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The musical began off-Broadway in 2019 at Playwright Horizons, with Larry Owens as the lead character, Usher, with Jaquel Spivey taking over in the Broadway iteration. The musical eventually gained popularity due to its representation and complex themes.

“A Strange Loop” consists of the social pressures put on Usher. He struggles as a musical playwright to write his play because of his race and sexuality, wanting to write a musical about the struggles of a young black gay man writing their own play in the theatre industry. He doesn’t want to create a mainstream musical and is caught in a conflicting headspace when he contemplates dominating forms of art and his own work.

Jackson gets this controversial message across through both humor and music, creating a range of different emotions for the audience to experience. One of the main emotions Usher experiences in the musical are doubts, stating, “Should there even be a show? It should start with what he’s thinking, which is just a cursor blinking because of all of the directions that the narrative could go.”

They continue to ask, “Why can’t we unleash what’s locked inside of us? Who made up these rules that black boys have to obey?” His ability to write vulnerably about doubt and powerlessness as a writer has encouraged many to open up about their own experiences and reflect on the pressures that discrimination has inflicted on themselves and others.

The amount of creativity Jackson compacted into this musical is highly noticeable, whether it has to do with thinking about discrimination towards one’s identity or the composition of the music. A senior at the University said, “I absolutely loved it and particularly identified with the Usher’s experience of wanting to be a playwright!”

The play is argued to be heavy, but some believe that the humor helped them get through the story. In an interview with Playwrights Horizons, Jackson stated he had spent 18 years working on “A Strange Loop” to help express the issues a black queer man faces without wanting to design or label the play as “traumatic.”

The play has also been a part of the University’s Broadway Series, which contains discounted tickets for Broadway shows each month from the Center for Student Engagement. For more information on these discounted tickets, click here. Jackson’s next musical “White Girl in Danger” is set to premiere Off-Broadway in spring 2023.