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A Strange Loop

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Strange Loop
2022 Broadway poster
MusicMichael R. Jackson
LyricsMichael R. Jackson
BookMichael R. Jackson
PremiereMay 3, 2019 (2019-05-03): Playwrights Horizons, New York City
AwardsObie Award for Playwrighting
Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical
Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical

A Strange Loop is a musical with book, music, and lyrics by Michael R. Jackson, and winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.[1] First produced off-Broadway in 2019, then staged in Washington, D.C. in 2021,[2] A Strange Loop premiered on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre in April 2022.[3][4] The show won Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical at the 75th Tony Awards.

The show follows Usher, a Black queer man writing a musical about a Black queer man writing a musical. The title refers to a cognitive science term coined by Douglas Hofstadter, as well as a song by Liz Phair.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • A Strange Loop: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert
  • Trailer: A Strange Loop
  • Watch Highlights From the Pulitzer-Winning Musical A Strange Loop
  • A Strange Loop
  • "Inner White Girl" from A Strange Loop | Performed by Kyle Ramar Freeman


Plot summary

While working as an usher at The Lion King, aspiring musical theater writer Usher contemplates the show he is writing, wanting it to represent what it is like to "travel the world in a fat, Black, queer body" ("Intermission Song"). He plans to change himself but his Thoughts are too disruptive ("Today"). His mother, who constantly reminds him how hard she and his father worked to raise him, calls with a request that he write a Tyler Perry-style gospel play ("We Wanna Know").

Usher wishes he could act more like his "inner white girl" but is held back by expectations put on Black boys ("Inner White Girl"). His Thoughts criticize the show, claiming the main character should have more sex appeal and telling him to add certain elements. Usher's father leaves a voicemail saying he found Scott Rudin's number and urges him to leverage their common sexuality to make a connection ("Didn't Want Nothin'").

At a medical checkup, Usher's doctor inquires about his sex life and prescribes Truvada. Usher starts using dating apps but is rejected, causing him to rage against the gay community ("Exile In Gayville"). A stranger flirts with Usher before revealing he is a figment of Usher's imagination and dismissing the war between the "second-wave feminist" and "the dick-sucking Black gay man" within him ("Second Wave").

Usher's agent tells him Tyler Perry is seeking a ghostwriter for a gospel play, but Usher has a low opinion of Perry's work. Appearing as famous Black figures, his Thoughts accuse him of being a race traitor and persuade him to take the job ("Tyler Perry Writes Real Life"). Usher writes the play, acting out all the characters as caricatures ("Writing a Gospel Play").

At work, Usher tells a patron he cannot continue the show without confronting his parents with his artistic self. The patron advises him to live without fear ("A Sympathetic Ear"). Usher speaks with his parents over the phone, his father asking if he has contracted HIV and his mother asking about the status of the gospel play. After hooking up with "Inwood Daddy", a white man who fetishizes him and calls him racial slurs, Usher questions his "Boundaries".

On his birthday, Usher's mother leaves a voicemail reminding him homosexuality is a sin ("Periodically") while his father calls to inform him their church community does not approve of his music ("Didn't Want Nothin' [Reprise]"). While arguing with his parents about his homosexuality, Usher's mother, horrified by her portrayal in the play, accuses him of hating and disappointing her. Usher recalls how his friend Darnell, thinking he deserved to die, refused HIV medication and concludes living with AIDS is worse than dying from it ("Precious Little Dream/AIDS Is God's Punishment"). His mother tells Usher he is loved but thinks he is struggling because of his homosexuality.

The Thought playing Usher's mother stops the show and asks if he wants to end the show with hateful caricatures of his parents. Usher claims he is depicting life as it was when he was 17, but the Thought reminds him he is now 26. Usher reflects on his childhood, eventually realizing his perceptions of his parents must change if he is to change ("Memory Song"). With his back to the audience, Usher wonders what will happen when the show ends. He turns around, concluding that he does not need to change, because change is an illusion and he, like everyone else, is in "A Strange Loop".

Cast and characters

Character MTF Workshop[5] Off-Broadway[6] Washington, DC[2] Broadway[3] London[7]
2015 2019 2021 2022 2023
Usher Larry Owens Jaquel Spivey Kyle Ramar Freeman
Thought 1 L Morgan Lee Sharlene Hector
Thought 2 James Jackson, Jr. Nathan Armarkwei-Laryea
Thought 3 Elijah Caldwell John-Michael Lyles Yeukayi Ushe
Thought 4 John-Andrew Morrison Tendai Humphrey Sitima
Thought 5 Jason Veasey Danny Bailey
Thought 6 Jamaal Clark Turpin Antwayn Hopper Eddie Elliot

Musical numbers

  • "Intermission Song" – Usher, Thoughts
  • "Today" – Usher, Thoughts
  • "We Wanna Know" – Thoughts
  • "Inner White Girl" – Usher, Thoughts
  • "Didn't Want Nothin'" – Thought 5, Thoughts
  • "Exile in Gayville" – Usher, Thoughts
  • "Second Wave" – Usher
  • "Tyler Perry Writes Real Life" – Usher, Thought 3, Thoughts
  • "Writing a Gospel Play" – Usher, Thoughts
  • "A Sympathetic Ear" – Thought 1
  • "Inwood Daddy" – Usher, Thought 6, Thoughts
  • "Boundaries" – Usher
  • "Periodically" – Thought 4, Usher
  • "Didn't Want Nothin' Reprise" – Thought 5
  • "Precious Little Dream / AIDS Is God's Punishment" – Usher, Thoughts
  • "Memory Song" – Usher, Thoughts 2-6
  • "A Strange Loop" – Usher, Thoughts


Off-Broadway (2019)

A Strange Loop began previews at off-Broadway venue Playwrights Horizons on May 24, 2019. It opened on June 17, 2019, with closing scheduled for July 7, 2019,[8] before extending to July 28, 2019.[9] The show featured Larry Owens as Usher. The creative team credits included Michael R. Jackson as writer of book, music, and lyrics, Stephen Brackett as director, Raja Feather Kelly as choreographer, Charlie Rosen as orchestrator, and Rona Siddiqui as music director.[10]

Washington, D.C. (2021)

The Washington, DC production at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company was originally scheduled for September 2020, but postponed to December 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[11][2] The six-week limited run began previews November 22, 2021, and opened December 3, 2021.[12] The show extended another week, changing its closing date from January 2 to 9, 2022.[13]

Broadway (2022–2023)

The Broadway production of A Strange Loop was announced December 20, 2021.[14] Many notable people from the entertainment industry served as the show's producers. They included lead producer Barbara Whitman, as well as Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Jennifer Hudson, RuPaul Charles, Marc Platt, Megan Ellison of Annapurna Pictures, Don Cheadle, Frank Marshall, James L. Nederlander, Alan Cumming, Ilana Glazer, Mindy Kaling and Billy Porter.[15] Previews were scheduled to begin on April 6, but were postponed to April 14 due to COVID-19 breakouts among the cast.[16] The show officially opened April 26, 2022. In October 2022, it was announced that the show would play its final performance on Broadway on January 15, 2023.[17]

London (2023)

The London production opened at the Barbican Centre on June 17, 2023, for a limited run until September 9. It was produced by Howard Panter for Trafalgar Theatre Productions, the National Theatre, Barbara Whitman and Wessex Grove.[18] Brackett, Kelly, Rosen, Siddiqui, and the rest of the Broadway creative team returned for the London production.[19] Kyle Ramar Freeman, who understudied Usher on Broadway, starred in the production alongside an all-British cast of Thoughts.[20] Freeman played his final performance on August 12 due to prior commitments. Kyle Birch stepped into the role of Usher on August 14 and continued through the show's final performance.[21]

Other productions

A Strange Loop is scheduled to play as a co-production between American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) in San Francisco and the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, presented at A.C.T. from April 18 to May 12, 2024, and the Center Theatre Group's Ahmanson Theatre from June 5 to June 30, 2024. The production will be helmed by the same creative team as the Broadway and London mountings and feature a largely new cast as Usher and the Thoughts, with John-Andrew Morrison reprising his role as Thought 4.[22]


Upon opening off-Broadway on June 17, 2019. A Strange Loop received critical acclaim. In particular, it was praised for its emotional honesty and meta themes within both the writing and the musical compositions. It was also praised for the performances that the cast gave, calling them “physically exhaustive.” However, it was deemed as unlikely to become a Broadway show due to it potentially getting "too easily lost in a Broadway House."[23]

A Strange Loop opened on Broadway on April 26, 2022, and also received critical acclaim. In particular, it was praised for its themes and tone which were successfully retained from the off-Broadway version and then cleaned up for the larger, more consumer based crowd which would be found on Broadway. There was a light critiquing about how working within the large institution of Broadway instead of merely peering in has made some of the commentary become shallow.[24][25]

Cast recordings

The original off-Broadway cast recording was released on September 27, 2019, on Yellow Sound Label.[26] The album peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Cast Albums chart.[27] A Broadway cast album was recorded on April 10, 2022, and released on June 10, 2022, through Sh-K-Boom Records, Yellow Sound Label, Barbara Whitman Productions, and Ghostlight Records.[28] It debuted at number two on the Cast Albums chart.[29]

Box office

On June 14, 2022, Deadline reported that the musical filled 98% of its available seats during the week ending June 12. The musical grossed $676,316 for seven performances.[30] The musical also broke the Lyceum Theatre box office house record for a standard 8-performance week, taking $860,496 for the week ending June 26, a $15,183 bump over the previous week.[31] As of September 2022, A Strange Loop grossed around $14.2 million from 136,777 attendance and 157 performance.[32]

Awards and nominations

On May 4, 2020, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama was awarded to Jackson for the musical, with the committee citing the show as "a metafictional musical that tracks the creative process of an artist transforming issues of identity, race, and sexuality that once pushed him to the margins of the cultural mainstream into a meditation on universal human fears and insecurities." The show is the tenth musical to win the award, as well as the first musical written by a Black person to win and first musical to win without a Broadway run.[33] The show premiered on Broadway in April 2022 and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. As one of its producers, Jennifer Hudson became the second Black woman to receive all four of the major American entertainment awards (EGOT).[34]

The cast recording received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for the 2023 Grammy Awards, which it lost to the 2022 Broadway cast recording of Into the Woods.


Year Award Category Nominee Result
2020 Lucille Lortel Awards[35] Outstanding Musical A Strange Loop Nominated
Outstanding Director Stephen Brackett Nominated
Outstanding Choreographer Raja Feather Kelly Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical Larry Owens Won
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical John-Andrew Morrison Won
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical L Morgan Lee Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design Montana Levi Blanco Nominated
Drama Desk Awards[36] Outstanding Musical A Strange Loop Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Larry Owens Won
Outstanding Director of a Musical Stephen Brackett Won
Outstanding Music Michael R. Jackson Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Won
Outstanding Book of a Musical Won
New York Drama Critic's Circle Awards[37] Best Musical A Strange Loop Won
Drama League Award[38] Outstanding Production of a Musical A Strange Loop Nominated
Distinguished Performance Award Larry Owens Nominated
Off-Broadway Alliance Awards[39] Best New Musical A Strange Loop Won
Pulitzer Prize Pulitzer Prize for Drama Michael R. Jackson Won
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical A Strange Loop Honoree
Outstanding Book of a Musical Michael R. Jackson Honoree
Outstanding New Score Michael R. Jackson Honoree
Outstanding Director of a Musical Stephen Brackett Honoree
Outstanding Choreographer Raja Feather Kelly Honoree
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Larry Owens Honoree
Obie Award[40] Playwrighting Michael R. Jackson Won
Special Citation Creative team and ensemble – Antwayn Hopper, James Jackson, Jr., L Morgan Lee, John-Michael Lyles, John-Andrew Morrison, Larry Owens, Jason Veasey, Elijah Caldwell, Stephen Brackett, Raja Feather Kelly, Arnulfo Maldonado, Montana Levi Blanco, Jen Schriever, Alex Hawthorn, Cookie Jordan, Charlie Rosen, Rona Siddiqui, Michael R. Jackson Won


Year Award Category Nominee Result
2022 Tony Awards[41] Best Musical Won
Best Book of a Musical Michael R. Jackson Won
Best Original Score Nominated
Best Actor in a Musical Jaquel Spivey Nominated
Best Featured Actor in a Musical John-Andrew Morrison Nominated
Best Featured Actress in a Musical L Morgan Lee Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Stephen Brackett Nominated
Best Scenic Design of a Musical Arnulfo Maldonado Nominated
Best Lighting Design of a Musical Jen Schriever Nominated
Best Sound Design of a Musical Drew Levy Nominated
Best Orchestrations Charlie Rosen Nominated
Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Actor in a Musical Jaquel Spivey Won
Drama League Award[42] Outstanding Production of a Musical A Strange Loop Won
Distinguished Performance Award Jaquel Spivey Nominated
L Morgan Lee Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Awards[43] Outstanding Actor in a Musical Jaquel Spivey Won
Theatre World Award[44] Jaquel Spivey Honoree


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  2. ^ a b c Gans, Andrew (December 3, 2021). "Michael R. Jackson's A Strange Loop Opens at Woolly Mammoth December 3". Playbill. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Rabinowitz, Chloe (January 18, 2022). "Full Cast and Dates Announced for Broadway's A Strange Loop; Tickets Now On Sale". Broadway World. Retrieved January 18, 2022.
  4. ^ "Watch Emotional Curtain Call From 1st Broadway Preview of Pulitzer-Winning Musical A Strange Loop". Playbill. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
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  15. ^ "RuPaul, Alan Cumming, and Billy Porter Among the Many Producers of A Strange Loop". April 13, 2022. Retrieved May 25, 2022.
  16. ^ "Update: A Strange Loop Broadway Start Postponed to April 14". Playbill. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  17. ^ Culwell-Block, Logan (October 11, 2022). "Broadway's A Strange Loop Will Close in January". Archived from the original on October 13, 2022. Retrieved October 23, 2022.
  18. ^ Wood, Alex (March 8, 2023). "A Strange Loop to have UK premiere this summer". WhatsOnStage. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  19. ^ Culwell-Block, Logan (April 28, 2023). "Kyle Ramar Freeman to Lead A Strange Loop in London's West End". Playbill. Retrieved April 28, 2023.
  20. ^ Cullwell-Block, Logan. "A Strange Loop Begins London Premiere Starring Broadway's Kyle Ramar Freeman June 17". Playbill. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  21. ^ Wild, Stephi. "Kyle Birch Will Lead A STRANGE LOOP in London as 'Usher'". Retrieved August 15, 2023.
  22. ^ Rabinowitz, Chloe. "John-Andrew Morrison, Malachi McCaskill & More to Star in A STRANGE LOOP West Coast Premiere". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved March 6, 2024.
  23. ^ Savran, David (June 2020). "A Strange Loop by Michael R. Jackson (review)". Johns Hopkins University Press. 72 (2): 219-221. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
  24. ^ Shaw, Helen (April 26, 2022). "A Strange Loop Moves to Broadway, Its Furious Energy Changed but Intact". Vulture. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
  25. ^ Francia, Caryl Anne (May 13, 2022). "'A Strange Loop' tells comedic, honest story of embracing oneself". The Ticker. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
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  27. ^ "Chart Search". Billboard. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
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  29. ^ "Cast Albums – June 25, 2022". Billboard. Retrieved June 21, 2022.
  30. ^ "Pre-Tony Broadway Box Office Up 7% To $32M; 'Strange Loop' Fills 98% Of Seats". Deadline. June 14, 2022.
  31. ^ "Broadway Box Office Holds Steady At $31M; 'A Strange Loop', 'MJ' Set House Records". Deadline. June 28, 2022.
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  34. ^ "With the Tony-winning 'A Strange Loop,' Jennifer Hudson becomes an EGOT recipient". Los Angeles Times. June 13, 2022. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  35. ^ Clement, Olivia (April 14, 2020). "Playwrights Horizons Leads 2020 Lucille Lortel Award Nominations With Strange Loop and Heroes of the Fourth Turning". Playbill. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  36. ^ "PBreaking: 2020 Drama Desk Awards Nominations- The Full List!". Broadway World. April 21, 2020. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
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  38. ^ BWW News Desk. "Breaking News: Drama League Announces 2020 Nominations". Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  39. ^ Clement, Olivia (April 28, 2020). "Check Out the Nominees for the Off-Broadway Alliance Awards". Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  40. ^ "2020 Obie Awards". Archived from the original on July 16, 2020. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  41. ^ Towers, Andreas (May 9, 2022). "Tony Awards 2022: See the full list of nominees". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 9, 2022.
  42. ^ Rosky, Nicole. "2022 Drama League Awards Nominations Announced- Full List!". Retrieved April 25, 2022.
  43. ^ "The Lehman Trilogy, Kimberly Akimbo & Harmony Lead 2022 Outer Critics Circle Award Nominations". Retrieved April 26, 2022.
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External links

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