Holler If Ya Hear Me Review

I saw Holler If Ya Hear Me last weekend, and I'm sad to report I was unimpressed. The music of Tupac carries a lot of great messages and power, and it seems like the minds behind it relied too heavily on that to carry the show.

I was very excited for the show, since any show that aims to broaden Broadway's audience gets me super pumped. The majority of America has certain ideas of what a "musical" is and what Broadway does, and these are usually informed by high school productions they saw once or twice that were likely terribly underfunded, and often-times poorly managed, with talent nowhere near that which Broadway has fostered-- not to knock high schools and their theater programs which foster the greats of today and tomorrow, but the point I'm making is that a lot of people have a very narrow idea about what the theater world has to offer because they've only seen the small scale and have never seen the big leagues. Even when Broadway shows tour, they often end up at the large cities, so people living further out typically don't encounter the theater scene in their day-to-day lives. Add to that an idea that musicals are these campy, rhinestone-bedazzled affairs, and you've got a picture of a Broadway that only caters to certain people with certain taste-- this kind of picture robs people of an understanding of the diversity that exists within the community in terms of story, music, taste, etc. So naturally, I hoped that Holler would be one of those shows that challenges the ideas that people have about what Broadway is and who it's for.

Unfortunately, the only impression Holler made on me was that there was too much money and too much rush put behind this project which struck me as unfinished and unpolished at best. It's as if everyone backing the show was more excited about the idea of a Tupac musical than they were about making a good show. The story and characters were underdeveloped and the sound was poorly balanced. The flow of the story and transitions were so poorly cobbled together that the actors struggled to make what was written in an unnatural manner seem more natural. None of the actors gave particularly sterling performances, but I place the fault on the material. There were a few moments when the actors really pushed through the nonsense, but mostly the story held everyone back.

I thought the sets were really well done for the show, and the lighting, although a bit gaudy for my taste, was decent. For the most part though, the poor storyline and character development ruined everything. It was very apparent that the writers were just looking to find ways to incorporate certain songs in the show, even at the expense of the story. It was a lot like watching an absurd children's program in another language-- there were these images that you know were supposed to make sense together, but you just couldn't get them to fit in any coherent way. The ending was unsatisfying. I did not really care about any of the characters. It seemed much like the angsty ramblings of an angry teen, aiming to be profound, yet lost in sputtering, superficial, forceful aimlessness.

It's so disappointing given how amazing Tupac's lyrics were-- they could have had such impact on shaping a storyline and yet, I sat watching, confused, dissatisfied, and quite frankly, annoyed. How could someone do this to the audience? To the actors? I'd like to believe that the creative team had some serious qualms about this show, and at the very least, that the people with the purse strings somewhat bullied this show through production because I shudder to think what kind of creative team would put together this show without any remorse or regret. Honestly, it's hard to be a creative, balancing integrity and survival when they can sometimes be at odds. I seriously don't hold any of the shortcomings against the creative team, because I know that more likely than not, there was just immense money and pressure pushing this project through with little regard for their creative qualms-- I'm mostly just disappointed.

That said, I don't recommend this show. I don't want people to spend money and convince the people with money, the investors out there, that shiny, gimmicky, incomplete shows like this are worth investing money in. I would much rather see that money go to shows that deserve the spotlight-- ones that will last. There are so many shows that close far too early because there isn't enough money, often because of a marketing team that fails to sway people to open their wallets and go see whichever production. I would rather see an After Midnight continue on for 6 more months with the help of a better marketing team and more investors than watch helplessly as Holler gets backed by deep pockets while After Midnight closes too young. Sadly, After Midnight is closing Sunday, and it's a damn tragedy.

Harper's Rating: 1 / 5
The cast are very talented at singing and rapping.
The set is pretty damn amazing.
Lighting is good, depending on your tastes.
The story is flimsy, as are the characters.
The sound is poorly balanced in the songs.
The dialogue to song shifts are crazy awkward. (Seriously, you kind of have to nail this if you're making a musical)
It lacks authenticity, depth, and voice. 
Misuse of Tupac's work. (Sorry, I went there)

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