Poster for Hell's Kitchen featuring Maleah Joi Moon as Ali

Alicia Keys is the latest musician to have their work turned into a musical, and like most, this seems geared toward her fans and may not be on Broadway long.


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Summary

17-year-old Ali lives in New York City with her mom, Jersey, in a building filled with artists, and she’s ready for love. Specifically, she is ready and willing to love Knuck, an older guy, at least in his 20s.

Naturally, her mom is protective and doesn’t want her to be with a man like Knuck out of fear that Ali, like her, will find someone like Ali’s dad, Davis, who is there for the good times but ultimately too selfish to share the burden of the bad.

Feeling controlled and frustrated, but also 17 with no money, Ali finds herself wandering into the Ellington Room of her building, where she meets Miss Liza Jane, who changes her world forever by giving her what she needs from her parents, and the best of her parents, all in one package.

Characters and Cast

Character’s Name Actor’s Name
Ali Maleah Joi Moon
Knuck Chris Lee
Miss Liza Jane Kecia Lewis
Jersey Shoshana Bean
Davis Brandon Victor Dixon

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Ali

17-year-old Ali pushes the idea that she has lived a sheltered life. But on the edge of reaching adulthood and taking note of a boy who plays buckets outside her apartment building, she yearns for the experience of love and is willing to go outside her comfort zone to get it.

Knuck

Knuck is a young man who, in his spare time, drums on buckets with his friends, but most of his life is spent working – mainly painting buildings on the outside and, if he is lucky, having a few inside painting jobs.

Miss Liza Jane

Miss Liza Jane is an elder in Ali’s building, known not only for frequenting the Ellington Room, with its piano, but also for being a maternal figure for the building’s artists who need a sense of belonging and home.

Jersey

Jersey is Ali’s mom, a former actress who now works two jobs to maintain her and Ali’s lifestyle, and she also seems to have a lot of acquaintances in the NYPD.

Davis

Davis is Ali’s father, Jersey’s ex, who is a traveling musician who isn’t a consistent presence in Ali’s or Jersey’s life, though he repeatedly notions he would like to be.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Rent: Live.”

Review

Our Rating: Mixed (If Affordable)

Good If You Like

  • The music of Alicia Keys
  • Coming-of-age stories

Similar To This

  1. Premature (Movie): It also features a coming-of-age love story between an older man and a younger girl who is 17, set in New York.
  2. Once Upon A One More Time (Live Performance): A Jukebox musical, like “Hell’s Kitchen,” noted not to be autobiographical, though you can see similarities between the show’s story and that of the musician which it is based on.

Check out our Live Performance page for our latest reviews and recommendations.

Notable Performances or Moments

Miss Liza Jane

What Kecia Lewis delivers with Miss Liza Jane is the kind of performance that frustrates you. Why? Because you see people like her playing roles like Miss Liza Jane, becoming standouts, something or someone who doesn’t feel part of a formula, and who are so commanding that when she tells Ali to sit up straight, you do so in your chair, yet they aren’t the central focus.

Similar to the below-mentioned Brandon Victor Dixon, Lewis doesn’t have a huge role, but it is impactful. Miss Liza Jane is one of the few no-nonsense people in Ali’s life. She doesn’t let her talk to her in any kind of way; she holds her accountable and, dare I say, helps you understand why Jersey finds herself having to address Miss Liza Jane and reassert herself as Ali’s mother.

Mind you, not just out of the insecurity any parent would have if someone else got to their kid better than them, but because Miss Liza Jane presents to you that figure everyone needs in their life who loves them but isn’t going to excuse their actions just because of their age. And if I may add on, while I don’t think she has the height, if they ever had a play (preferably over a musical) about Maya Angelou, I feel like Kecia Lewis needs to be part of the conversation. Her voice truly has that oomph needed whenever someone writes that role.

Brandon Victor Dixon

Do you know people who know they are talented and like to flex it even when it isn’t necessary? That’s Brandon Victor Dixon. “Hell’s Kitchen” is a Broadway production, so everyone can sing, hit high notes, and be theatrical.

However, most Broadway productions lack someone who sings in such a way that makes you have that face look like you smelled something nasty because the way Dixon sings shows he is too comfortable in his talent to stick to the basics, for he knows he has too much to play with.

But, the real kicker when it comes to Dixon is that just as much as he can get a reaction from the audience with every other line of a song, he can also show why Davis eternally seduces both Jersey and Ali. I mean, the way Dixon sings “Fallin’?” Yes, Davis puts his career first over his child and the woman he keeps coming back to, but there is no denying how charming Dixon makes Davis to the point you know, without raising a hand or weapon, that man is dangerous.

Highlights

The Choreography And Dancing Don’t Feel Like Generic Broadway Fare

After watching “A Wonderful World” in Chicago, among many other productions Broadway bound or on Broadway, it can feel like everyone is doing the same style of dance. It’s big and showy, with splits, what appear to be tap numbers, and more. “Hell’s Kitchen” is different because it takes note of the time period, and it is in New York, mostly featuring Black and Brown people. So, while you do get the occasional numbers that look like they can be from any other show, then there are hip-hop influences that make the dancers seem less of an obligation, since this is a musical, and more a part of the world-building and culture so that the named characters don’t seem in a bubble.

The Duets

When it comes to Ali, the best moments for her are when she is doing a duet. Whether it is her and Jersey doing “No One” towards the end of the show, Ali and Knuck doing “Un-Thinkiable (I’m Ready)” or the tear-inducing “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” or Ali and Davis doing “If I Ain’t Got You,” that is when Moon shines.

Low Points

Dancers Popping Out When Not Necessary

Too many times in the show, especially during the aforementioned duets, dancers pop out from the side, and while it doesn’t ruin the moment, it feels unnecessary. It’s an intimate moment between two characters. Then, almost a dozen dancers pop out from the sides of the stage and create what often felt like a distraction.

If The Song Isn’t A Ballad, The Instruments Drown Out The Singing

For most songs with any energy, the musicians and the vocalist do not complement one another. Dixon and Lewis usually find a way to keep themselves as lead and not get drowned out by the band, but everyone else? Let the song allow for some drums or anything that doesn’t require a light hand, and I can guarantee you that you’ll barely be able to hear what is being sung. All you’ll get is the sounds of all instruments, but vocals? You’d be lucky to hear the chorus.

On The Fence

Ali Feels Like A Character Who Belongs Part Of An Ensemble Than The Lead

The way Ali is written makes her feel interchangeable with anyone you can think of. She is a young girl experiencing her first love, and the sole thing that makes her story different from what you can see on Broadway or Off-Broadway is that her village, sans her mom, are Black and Brown people. But as for Ali as an individual? There isn’t really anything special there.

Ali is not built to be the lead who stands on their own. Hence, the main praise for the character is in her duets, for Moon can sing, harmonize, and share an emotional moment with another actor. However, between the writing and her performance, Ali is made into the type of lead that is usually only written for seasoned actors with an established legacy, like LaChanze in “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.” The type where, rather than make the lead the show’s star, the would-be lead uses that spotlight to highlight others while relying on what has gotten them this far to justify why they are driving the narrative.

Ali and Knuck’s Relationship

The heart of my issues with Ali and Knuck is questioning their age difference. Ali is 17, so months from being considered “An Adult” in the eyes of the law but it isn’t made explicitly clear how old Knuck is. Jersey, naturally, pushes the idea he is a grown man since her daughter is under 18. But what makes this relationship sometimes really hard to get into is how clearly Knuck presents the idea he is a grown man with grown people issues, and Ali is a child.

This makes their relationship a challenge to enjoy since you don’t know if Knuck is just 18 or 19, early 20s, mid-20s, or beyond? It’s clear to him that he knows Ali is younger, and Knuck is shocked and appalled when he learns she is 17, likely putting more brakes on their relationship than Jersey being against it.

Yet, I will admit, those duets do something to you so that, as much as the age difference can make you feel uneasy, the way Moon and Lee sing makes you want to just let yourself enjoy the moment.

The Musicians Clearly Seen On Stage

There is a plus and a minus to seeing the musicians on stage. The plus is knowing you are getting live music and not a recording, though considering the low point, I’m not sure if a recording wouldn’t have been the worst thing. However, perhaps the main issue regarding this topic is that it could make you question the scenes between Ali and Ms. Jane when Ali learns to play piano.

Now, regarding sound design, maybe a piano they pull on and off the stage can’t be hooked up so that, when it plays, the people in the back of the balcony can hear it. But, something about seeing the pianist play, while Ali and Ms. Jane have their lesson, takes away from the scene and causes you to lose immersion.

Background Information

Director(s) Michael Greif
Writer(s) Kristoffer Diaz, Alicia Keys
Language English
Attendance Type Offline – In Person
Event Status On Schedule
Venue or Network (Sam S. Shubert Theater ) 225 West 44th Street
Performance Date March 29th 2024
First Performance At This Venue March 28, 2024
Opening Night Performance April 20, 2024
Last Performance At This Venue To Be Determined
Venue URL https://www.hellskitchen.com/
Tickets Starting At $58.00
Genre(s) Comedy

Romance

Young Adult

Musical

Duration 2 Hours 30 Minutes

Crew

Scene/ Set Design Robert Brill
Costume Design Dede Ayite
Lighting Design Natasha Katz
Sound Design Gareth Owen
Choreography Camille A. Brown

Content Information

  • Dialog: Cursing
  • Violence: None
  • Sexual Content: None
  • Miscellaneous: None

Listed Under Categories: ,


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Hell’s Kitchen (2024) Musical Review
Poster for Hell's Kitchen featuring Maleah Joi Moon as Ali

Event Title: Hell’s Kitchen

Event Description: 17 year old Ali believes she is ready for love, but finds it challenging to be in love while living with her mother who doesn't like the person she has feelings for.

Start date: March 28, 2024

Location name: Sam S. Shubert Theater

Address: 225 West 44th Street New York City, New York

Offer price: 58.00

Offer URL: https://www.hellskitchen.com/

Offer valid from: March 30, 2024

Availability: InStock

Summary

While Alicia Keys fans will love the music, and those familiar with her story will enjoy how it may have lifted from her life, like many jukebox musicals, “Hell’s Kitchen” feels like a luxury to see, a new revenue stream for the artist involved, and will make you wish so badly that, like The Met, Broadway performances were consistently filmed for this doesn’t feel worth all it takes to see live.

Overall
78%
78%
  • The Musicians Clearly Seen On Stage - 76%
    76%
  • Ali and Knuck’s Relationship - 75%
    75%
  • Ali Feels Like A Character Who Belongs Part Of An Ensemble Than The Lead - 74%
    74%
  • If The Song Isn’t A Ballad, The Instruments Drown Out The Singing - 67%
    67%
  • Dancers Popping Out When Not Necessary - 68%
    68%
  • The Duets - 84%
    84%
  • The Choreography And Dancing Don’t Feel Like Generic Broadway Fare - 81%
    81%
  • Brandon Victor Dixon - 86%
    86%
  • Miss Liza Jane - 88%
    88%

Highlight(s)

  • The Duets
  • The Choreography And Dancing Don’t Feel Like Generic Broadway Fare
  • Brandon Victor Dixon
  • Miss Liza Jane

Disputable

  • The Musicians Clearly Seen On Stage
  • Ali and Knuck’s Relationship
  • Ali Feels Like A Character Who Belongs Part Of An Ensemble Than The Lead
  • If The Song Isn’t A Ballad, The Instruments Drown Out The Singing
  • Dancers Popping Out When Not Necessary

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