Harmony in Hell’s Kitchen: Alicia Keys’ coming-of-age musical has landed

Alicia Keys’ brand-new musical Hell’s Kitchen – her decade long passion project, has finally landed.

Just six weeks after concluding her Keys to the Summer tour, Alicia Keys’ brand-new musical Hell’s Kitchen – her passion project of over a decade – has finally debuted at The Public Theater in New York City.

Loosely based on the singer-songwriter’s life, Hell’s Kitchen is named for the Manhattan neighbourhood in which it takes place, and where Keys was born and raised.

alicia keys hells kitchen

“When I lived there, it was how it sounds,” said the fifteen-time Grammy winner, “it was side-by-side, the desolation and the possibility. I think that’s what kind of gave me a lot of hunger and grit.”

The story centres around seventeen-year-old Ali (Maleah Joi Moon) as she navigates her ungainly age under the guise of a stern single mother (Shoshana Bean), whose disapproval of her love interest Knuck (Chris Lee) drives her to the piano of their high-rise’s community room. 

Co-written with Kristoffer Diaz, Hell’s Kitchen mirrors the emotions and dynamics of Keys’ own coming-of-age experience rather than the events and semantic details.

The story, punctuated with airtight choreography and hip nineties costuming, is given life by many of her hit songs – plus four new tracks written for the musical. 

The pieces were arranged for the production by Keys and Adam Blackstone, and are played from a mobile balcony by six musicians. The show’s director Robert Greif has praised Keys’ perceptiveness as a songwriter in the theatre; “it’s a little baffling she’s never worked on a piece of theatre before,” he says, “she has an incredible sense of how a song works dramatically.” 

Having sold out its entire run, Hell’s Kitchen seems primed for another – even, perhaps, forty blocks further up the island. “If people say they’re not thinking it’s going to Broadway,” says former New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley, “they’re lying.”

Alicia Keys is keen on taking the show to such heights, and entrusts the magnetism of young up-and-comer Moon to take it there. 

For a glimpse into Hell’s Kitchen, watch the selection of rehearsal footage below:

Words By Harrison Jones.