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Now Opening: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘Freestyle Love Supreme’ on Broadway

Category Broadway

|by Ron Fassler |

The improvised rap show plays the Booth Theatre through Jan. 5

It is entirely appropriate that the Broadway theater named for Edwin Booth, considered in his day to be the greatest verse speaker of Shakespeare, is where Lin-Manuel Miranda (and company) have brought their Freestyle Love Supreme, a musical celebration of words in poetry and song. The legendary actor (and yes, ignominiously the brother of John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln’s assassin) could very well be smiling down from on high at the proceedings, as any lover of the Bard should also be excited at the idea of such dizzying word play being played out eight times a week in this limited engagement, which opened at the Booth on Oct. 2.

The opening night of ‘Freestyle Love Supreme’ on Broadway (Photo: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

The opening night of ‘Freestyle Love Supreme’ on Broadway (Photo: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

Miranda’s rap group, formed with Anthony Veneziale and his Hamilton director Thomas Kail, began in 2003 when had its official off-Broadway run. FLS (as it likes to be called) was a milestone for Kail and Miranda, as it marked the first time either had been paid for their work (obviously before In the Heights and Hamilton changed their lives and bank accounts forever). So, it makes perfect sense to feed the beast and give audiences a chance to see something in 2019 that mimics the same verve, grace and joy as Miranda’s pair of Tony Award-winning Best Musicals. And if another Tony is in the cards for him with this show, the awards administrators will most likely have to bring back the defunct Best Special Theatrical Event Tony, as FLS defies categorization.

Kail, Miranda and Veneziale have greatly enlarged their group of friends over the years, all of whom are well-versed in performing what is largely an improvisatory, free flow of hip-hop that make each and every performance unique. Taking ideas from the audience, whoever is on stage for that afternoon or evening’s show spontaneously spins the suggestions out into full-length musical numbers. After an Off-Broadway run in February, which sold out almost as soon as tickets went on sale, the Broadway edition brings together once again its long-time cast members. In alphabetical order, they include Arthur Lewis (“Arthur the Geniuses”), Bill Sherman (“King Sherman”), Chris Sullivan (“Shockwave”), Anthony Veneziale (“Two Touch”) and Utkarsh Ambudkar (“UTK”). In addition, a select list of special guests will be showing up without warning, which more of less promises appearances from Daveed Diggs (a Tony Award winner for Hamilton), Christopher Jackson (Tony-nominated as George Washington in Hamilton), James Monroe Iglehart (Tony Award winner for Aladdin), Wayne Brady (Kinky Boots) and, of course, Lin-Manuel himself.

If you’re considering attending, you may want to arrive early, as you will have the chance to write a word on a card, which you will then drop into a bucket that the performers draw from during the show. Numbers are also built around words that are thrown out by the audience during the performance. It’s probably a good thing to come prepared (know your words).

And, get this: in what might start a trend, audiences at FLS must surrender their phones by having them placed into special locked pouches until the show's end (you get to keep the pouch and put it under your seat). According to the show’s official website, “FLS is a performance that is dependent on the audience. Therefore, we want every person in attendance to be totally present – not texting or checking email.”

How’s that for helping to solve the problem of ringing phones interrupting your theatergoing experience?

Freestyle Love Supreme is scheduled for a strictly limited engagement at Broadway’s Booth Theater, 222 W. 45th Street, now through Jan. 5.

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