Russell Simmons Working on Hip-Hop Musical 'The Scenario'
Simmons said Thursday (March 19) that The Scenario will feature an original story written by author and hip-hop historian Dan Charnas, author of The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop. He's aiming to premiere it in New York City in late 2016.
"People will sing along and leave happy," Simmons said. "So many of these songs will reach everybody in the audience. That almost never happens."
Simmons, who won a Tony in 2003 for producing Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam, said the new musical will have a love story, contain a fight-the-power element and be a "celebration of hip-hop." It's still being written and song selection will likely be a tough task.
Simmons was one of the first players in the burgeoning hip-hop scene in the 1980s. He is co-founder of the pioneering Def Jam Recordings record label, which has represented such artists as the Beastie Boys, Jay Z, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, LL Cool J and Kanye West. And Simmons also created the Def Comedy franchise.
Jukebox musicals have been made with punk songs, hair metal, Abba songs and Carole King, but rap and hip-hop music has yet to produce a Broadway hit. Holler If Ya Hear Me, a rap musical that used over 20 Tupac Shakur songs, closed last year after less than two months.
Though Simmons never saw Holler If Ya Hear Me, he said he didn't consider it to be "a celebration of hip-hop" and "I don't see any way in the word to compare what I want to do with what they did."
He said The Scenario will lean more toward a celebration of the music of hip-hop than social commentary, although "you can't help but mention that it did more to integrate America than any other pop cultural phenomenon."
The new musical will be produced by Simmons; Def Pictures/Jake Stein; Big Block/Scott Prisand, Scott Benson, Tom Pellegrini and Jamie Bendell; Brian Sher and Stella Bulichnikov.