"Holler If Ya Hear Me" is based on the poetry and lyrics of slain rapper Tupac Shakur but struggled to find a consistent audience.
Set around Tupac Shakur's heartfelt, often abrasive poetry and lyrics, "Holler If Ya Hear Me" was a unique voice on the Broadway stage. According to Howard Pousner's "Producers of Kenny Leon-directed ‘Holler’ trying to raise $5 million to keep show on Broadway," Leon wanted to show a different voice, something the average audience may not have been exposed to before. Think more Rent than Wicked.
The Access Atlanta article cites a dialogue the director had earlier this month on the Tom Joyner show. "I’ve done, what, almost 10 Broadway shows now and I just want to diversify Broadway." And why's that important? "Because that’s our largest stage in the country and everybody’s voice should be on that stage.”
Landing somewhere between a musical and a tradition play, the Eric L. Gold production was set in a fictional Midwestern town created by Todd Kreider, a longtime Leon colleague, where life is hard. It's about survival. Gun violence and hard life for most of the characters makes a recently released inmate's attempt at reconnection difficult. Saul Williams and former Atlantan Saycon Sengbloch play the lead characters.
"If we don’t succeed, it’s going to be difficult to do another rap or hip hop show on Broadway.” Gold's brutal honesty when discussing the likelihood of a similar story appearing again on Broadway after the failure was a little heartbreaking, too. Leon's point about all non-traditional lives needing "voices need to be heard" is true as well.
The doors shutting on a non-traditional show means the audience will lose the chance to be "rewarded with something that’s very meaningful and impactful to their lives.” And he's right when calling Shakur "an American voice that we hardly hear" in everyday media.
Playbill reports "Holler" only made $144,773 at the box office for the week ending on July 6, which is half the price of "If/Then" and "Rocky" at an average of $30.63. Leon thinks the traditional audience isn't interested in the non "Matila" styled musicals because the money simply isn't showing up in the register.
As of last week, the producers were struggling to find $5 million to pay the basic costs. When speaking to Variety, Gold admitted to insufficient research and expectations. "I made a rookie mistake by underestimating how much capital was necessary, but I’m tenacious.”
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., attempt to raise capital failed as well. He offered up a recent article for The Daily Beast titled "Broadway was made for Tupac." It looks like audience isn't there since the non-traditional markets didn't follow word-of-mouth recommendations after so-so reviews and the largest segment willing to spend cash…didn't.
"And the non-traditional audience is taking its time to get there because they’re like, ‘Broadway is not for me. I don’t know if I’m gonna like that.'"
"Tupac Shakur Musical ‘Holler if Ya Hear Me’ Flops on Broadway" from Variety's Gordon Cox confirmed what Leon and Gold's comments about the audience, saying, "the traditional audience demographic skews older and white."
A cold opening without any sort of out-of-town tryout or national tour to retool any major production or stage elements didn't help. The production could have worked in a different audience or city because other markets may have proven "more receptive to the title" and idea of the work.
People go to Broadway for a specific experience and "Holler" didn't fit the idea. Or the budget. At $8 million production costs, the show's expected to be a total loss. Financial and non-traditional voice.
In short no one could save the show, which will close on July 20--only one month and one day after it opened. Tickets are still available for the final performances through Ticketmaster.