A Strange Loop
December 12, 2021 11:29 AM   Subscribe

A gay black man working as an usher on Broadway is writing a musical about a gay black man working as an usher on Broadway who is writing a musical about a gay black man working a an usher on Broadway writing a musical. This recursion forms the basis for A Strange Loop [Wikipedia, trailer, 2m30s], a musical that won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama [Pulitzer.org] but only just NOW is headed to Broadway thanks to COVID [NPR, article with listen link]. Here is the Original Cast Album [YouTube playlist].

Without a libretto, this show is a bit confusing. However, the new D.C. production has an extensive plot summary available that fills in many of the gaps.

A few videos: Inner White Girl, We Wanna Know, and Periodically (with bonus content author interview).

Also, Inside The Studio: A Strange Loop Original Cast Recording [4m45s].
posted by hippybear (20 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Oh crap. Forgot to include Michael R. Jackson Breaks Down His A Strange Loop Score [Playbill] which is super informative about all the songs.
posted by hippybear at 11:31 AM on December 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

From the NPR article: "More recently, Jackson has been working on two other projects. One is a musical adaptation of Teeth, a 2007 feminist-black-comedy horror film about a born-again Christian teenager who finds herself suffering from an unexpected case of vagina dentata."

As opposed to the expected cases one might experience during cold, flu, and vagina dentata season, I guess.

Silly copyediting jokes aside, this looks fascinating. For anyone else who wondered:
the title is taken from a concept by the cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter in which the self (to use Usher’s words) “is just a set of meaningless symbols in your brain pushing up or down through one level of abstraction to another but always winding up right back where they started.”
posted by jedicus at 11:46 AM on December 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

I think Bjork and Michel Gondry beat him to it
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 12:04 PM on December 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Jedicus, I came here to question that very thing - thanks! I've read the Hofstadter, looks like I need to see Jackson.
posted by grimjeer at 1:27 PM on December 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Ooh, these clips are FANTASTIC. I am so glad to know this exists!

("Treble clef and also bass!")

I do hope there's a full recording of the show available to the public at some point. I would love to see the whole thing, but I have little confidence in my ability to see it live anytime in the foreseeable future.

This is great. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, hippybear!
posted by kristi at 1:42 PM on December 12, 2021

Great podcast interview: Understanding the History and Mystery of Michael R. Jackson
posted by gwint at 2:58 PM on December 12, 2021

Metafilter: cold, flu, and vagina dentata season.
posted by mrgoat at 5:09 PM on December 12, 2021 [8 favorites]

I've listened to this cast album basically on repeat for a day now (with breaks), and it's astounding. I never expected anything like this. It feels so true to me as a gay man from a religious background...

I see why it won basically every prize back before everything shut down. I'm eager to see it get honed in DC and then transferred to Broadway!
posted by hippybear at 7:49 PM on December 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

This is the first I've heard of this musical and I love it so much. I've spent the day listening to it and will likely spend the rest of the month obsessing on it. Best Christmas present ever.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:53 PM on December 12, 2021

(I'll be slightly obnoxious and use this opportunity to link one of my favorite magnetic fields songs... "Sitting in bars and cafes / Writing songs about songs / and plays within plays. / But how rarely we dare / to write anything that says / anything about bars and cafes.")
posted by kaibutsu at 10:59 PM on December 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't have anything insightful to add about this other than to say that I went to middle and high school with Michael and have seen Strange Loop twice now (once in New York in 2019 and finally again in DC on Saturday) and it was fantastic both times. I'm over the moon for Michael and his success and it's so great to see it being discussed here.
posted by fancypants at 6:10 AM on December 13, 2021 [4 favorites]

black and gay and Broadway and a Hofstadter reference; my heart is so happy to know of this
posted by youarenothere at 6:21 AM on December 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Synecdoche, NY, the queer Black musical? I'm here for it!
posted by MiraK at 10:36 AM on December 13, 2021

Oooh, I would see the DC production in a heartbeat if it weren't for COVID.
posted by amarynth at 11:39 AM on December 13, 2021

Amarynth, and others who might be interested in seeing the production while it's in DC: Woolly Mammoth theater has a proof of vaccination requirement for entry plus a mask mandate.
posted by fancypants at 2:41 PM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Thank you for putting this on my radar!
posted by mersen at 5:46 AM on December 14, 2021

I saw it at Playwright Horizons, and I second the good reviews -- absolutely go see it if you have the chance!
posted by naoko at 12:18 PM on December 14, 2021

Huh. Usher's t-shirt in the show says:

Whose obit post was posted today.

Got my CD today. Beautiful packaging with a really lovely booklet of lyrics.

I'm obsessing about this show a bit right now. The more I listen, the more I'm finding things in it.
posted by hippybear at 7:55 PM on December 15, 2021

So, Ari Shapiro interviews Michael R. Jackson on Great Podversations (scroll way down -- it's episode #5).
posted by hippybear at 12:06 PM on December 19, 2021

And I think that interview is Required Listening, really. Wow, it's good.
posted by hippybear at 12:20 PM on December 19, 2021

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