Theater Review – Alicia Keys’ HELL’S KITCHEN Is on Fire

Now at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre: Tue, Thur and Fri at 7PM, Wed at 7:30PM, Sat at 8PM, with matinees on Wed and Sat at 2PM, and Sun at 3PM

The company of Hell’s Kitchen on Broadway - Photo Credit, Marc J. Franklin
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By Laurie Graff and Jody Prusan

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of

There’s nothing’ you can’t do

Now you’re in New York

These lyrics from the Alicia Keys iconic hit, “Empire State of Mind,” set the stage for the Broadway premiere of HELL’S KITCHEN, the exciting and pulsating new musical that opened Saturday, April 20, 2024, at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre (225 West 44th Street), directed by four-time Tony Award® nominee Michael Greif, with choreography by Tony Award nominee Camille A. Brown, a book by Pulitzer Prize finalist Kristoffer Diaz – and the music of Keys, featuring new songs and her greatest hits. 

Maleah Joi Moon as “Ali” and the company of Hell’s Kitchen on Broadway – Photo Credit, Marc J. Franklin

Inspired by Alicia Keys’ life, HELL’S KITCHEN is a 1990s’ coming-of-age story that follows 17-year-old Ali as she breaks free to discover her musical and personal passions while negotiating life with her protective single-mom, and set in Times Square/NYC at Manhattan Plaza where Keys actually grew up. Manhattan Plaza is a federally subsidized apartment building for performing arts professionals, whose mission is to provide affordable housing. It has become a creative hive for actors, singers, musicians, dancers, choreographers, comedians and the elderly. In fact, that is where one of the residents gave Alicia a gift of a piano when she turned 10 that changed her life and helped create her future.

Kecia Lewis as “Miss Liza Jane” and Maleah Joi Moon as “Ali” – Photo Credit, Marc J. Franklin

These two SPLASH reporters got together to talk about their exhilarating experience seeing HELL’S KITCHEN:

JODY PRUSAN (JP): I loved everything about this hip, heartbreaking, inspiring and poppin’ production. You?

LAURIE GRAFF (LG): Totally. I did not see it when it was at the Public Theater and had no idea what to expect. But they had me from the first, when Ali was in the elevator at Manhattan Plaza, explaining the musical sounds from each apartment and floor, and we saw the incredible set design of the building and the city. I could feel the pulse of the place.

JP: From the first downbeat to the last, I was blown away by the entire show, cast and crew. Moving to the music of the incredible Alicia Keys and literally on the edge of my seat, I felt we were all taken on an amazing journey.

LG: Palpable, right?

JP: Yes, I felt the vibe and energy of the audience. You could not resist this electrifying experience.

LG: The choreography was a wow, so alive. The ensemble so tight. And the lead players so good.

JP: Miss Liza Jane, Ali’s piano teacher, played by Kecia Lewis was a force of nature. Her vocals and presence were outstanding and awesome. And Shoshana Bean as Jersey, Ali’s mom. Shoshana Bean – OMG! I mean really you just have to see what she can do! Her solos were showstoppers, and the relationship with her daughter really nuanced and authentic.

Shoshana Bean as “Jersey” and Maleah Joi Moon as “Ali” – Photo Credit, Marc J. Franklin

LG: I loved when Liza Jane tells Ali, “You are here because the voice of your ancestors requested your presence.”

JP: Our program notes provided names for four understudies. Had I not been notified I would never have guessed that there had been any cast changes for our evening.

LG: Giana Harris as Ali….. I mean, just perfect.

JP:  She was a meteor of energy – singing, rapping, gyrating and lighting up expertly and engaging the audience and propelling the story. And the actor who play Knuck? He was smooth like butter and owned every moment.

LG: Yep. Lamont Walker II was super. The two had great chemistry. And I really liked Brandon Victor Dixon as the estranged dad. But I also felt a main character was the building of Manhattan Plaza and the backdrop of the city.

JP: Agreed! HELL’S KITCHEN is like an infusion of nostalgia and history that celebrates our city and a time and place that is now historic. The blocks that identify the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood today are filled with trendy restaurants and high-rise buildings. But don’t forget, in the 80s this was an area filled with grit and crime.

LG: Congrats to the creators who chose to give us a backstage view into this unique time and place.

JP: And they also let Alicia Key’s music fly. Didn’t you love just how her well-known songs were integrated into the story?

LG: We were all quietly singing along to “Fallin’,” “If I Ain’t Got You,” “Girl on Fire,” “No One” and the awesome “Empire State of Mind.”

JP: Plus, all the great new songs! Didn’t you love “Kaleidoscope?” I’m going to share the video of that song that was shot at Manhattan Plaza:

LG:  A big thanks to Manhattan Plaza and Alicia Keys showing how HELL’S KITCHEN is the art and soul of the community.

Brandon Victor Dixon as “Davis” and the company of Hell’s Kitchen on Broadway – Photo Credit, Marc J. Franklin

The stellar cast is led by Shoshana Bean, Brandon Victor Dixon, Kecia Lewis, Chris Lee, and Maleah Joi MoonHELL’S KITCHEN is directed by four-time Tony Award® nominee Michael Greif, with choreography by Tony Award nominee Camille A. Brown, a book by Pulitzer Prize finalist Kristoffer Diaz – and the music of Alicia Keys.

It features Chad Carstarphen, Reid ClarkeChloe Davis, Nico DeJesus, Timothy L. Edwards, Desmond Sean Ellington, Badia Farha, Vanessa Ferguson, David Guzman, Gianna HarrisJakeim Hart, Takia HopsonJackie Leon, Raechelle Manalo, Jade Milan, Onyxx Noel, Susan Oliveras, Sarah ParkerAaron Nicholas Patterson, William Roberson,Niki Saludez, Nyseli Vega, Donna Vivino, Lamont Walker II, Rema WebbandOscar Whitney Jr. 

The creative team for HELL’S KITCHEN includes, Robert Brill (Scenic Design), Dede Ayite (Costume Design), Natasha Katz (Lighting Design), Gareth Owen (Sound Design), PeterNigrini (Projection Design), Mia Neal (Hair and Wig Design), Michael Clifton (Makeup Design), Heidi Griffiths and Kate Murray (Casting), Danny Maly (Production Stage Manager), and Foresight Theatrical (General Management).

The music team of HELL’S KITCHEN includes orchestrations by Tom Kitt and Adam Blackstone, arrangements by Alicia Keys and Adam Blackstone, music consulting by Tom Kitt and music direction by Lily Ling.

Tickets for HELL’S KITCHEN are available at and Tickets can also be purchased at the Shubert Theatre box office. Ticket prices range from $59-199.

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