The 2014-15 Broadway season is barely underway, but it already has a major casualty that seems likely to earn a place among the legendary flops whose posters adorn the walls of theater-district hangout Joe Allen. “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” the non-biographical rap musical set in a tough inner-city neighborhood in the industrial Midwest, will have its final performance July 20, just a month after opening. Assembled around the lyrics and poetry of murdered hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur, the show began previews at the Palace Theatre on June 2, and officially opened June 19. Some insiders speculated that producers might pull the plug even before opening night given the alarmingly low audience turnout during previews.
The Palace is one of Broadway’s larger venues, with a prime position in the heart of Times Square and a standard seating capacity of roughly 1,700. However, the $8 million Holler production reconfigured the theater’s orchestra section, downsizing by 600 seats, ostensibly to create a more intimate experience with a stadium-style view. But even in that smaller house, the musical failed to fill seats. From the start, it posted catastrophically low numbers, never once reaching $200,000 during its six weeks on the boards. “Holler If Ya Hear Me” was a book by Todd Kreidler, a frequent collaborator of the distinguished late playwright August Wilson. It was directed by Kenny Leon, hot off a Tony win for his staging of the sellout revival of “A Raisin in the Sun” with Denzel Washington. The cast is headed by Saul Williams, Christopher Jackson, Saycon Sengbloh and Tonya Pinkins.