Critics are heaping boundless praise on the newly opened Broadway version of A Strange Loop. The bold and highly original production, which wow’d audiences Off-Broadway in 2019 and took home the Pulitzer last year, has lost none of what made it extraordinary on its journey to the Great White Way. In fact, the change to cast professional-newcomer Jaquel Spivey as Usher has critics applauding even more loudly than before. Entertaining, brash, heartfelt and uncomfortable, A Strange Loop is truly a one-of-a-kind experience and at the top of most best-of lists for this season.
New York Times Review of A Strange Loop
“A Strange Loop,” Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning meta musical about a Black queer man’s self-perception in relation to his art, is radical. And I definitely mean that as a compliment. This musical, a production of Page 73, Playwrights Horizons and Woolly Mammoth Theater Company, forgoes the commercial niceties and digestible narratives of many Broadway shows, delivering a story that’s searing and softhearted, uproarious and disquieting. … “A Strange Loop,” Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning meta musical about a Black queer man’s self-perception in relation to his art, is radical. And I definitely mean that as a compliment. This musical, a production of Page 73, Playwrights Horizons and Woolly Mammoth Theater Company, forgoes the commercial niceties and digestible narratives of many Broadway shows, delivering a story that’s searing and softhearted, uproarious and disquieting. … Though a newcomer — this is not only his Broadway debut but also his first professional gig after graduating from college last May — Spivey gives an earnest, lived-in performance. … And yet, it seems as if there is no measure of praise that could be too much; after all, this is a show that allows a Black gay man to be vulnerable onstage without dismissing or fetishizing his trauma, desires and creative ambitions. Now that’s some radical theater.
TimeOut Review of A Strange Loop
A Strange Loop is a wild ride. In a Broadway landscape dominated by shows that often seem designed by corporations for audiences of focus groups, Michael R. Jackson’s musical is the defiant product of a single and singular authorial vision. This wide-ranging intravaganza takes a deep dive, often barely coming up for breath, into a whirlpool of ambition and frustration as Jackson’s seeming alter ego—a queer, Black writer-composer named Usher (Jaquel Spivey)—struggles to define himself amid traps of sex, race, family, body image, religion and entertainment. It’s screamingly funny and howlingly hurt, and it’s unmissable. Smartly directed by Stephen Brackett, the show caused a sensation in 2019 when it premiered at Playwrights Horizons; now, after multiple top-ten lists and an armful of honors (including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award), it has reached Broadway without compromising its conflicted, challenging, sometimes actively family-unfriendly content. The songs are welcomingly tuneful and clever, but as Usher warns us in the opening number: “A Strange Loop will have Black shit! And white shit! It’ll give you uptown and downtown! With truth-telling and butt-fucking!” All of that is true—including, graphically, the last part—but it barely begins to describe the show’s discombobulating melange of anger, joy, neurosis and honesty. … The COVID shutdown had a lot of us holding our breaths that Broadway would dare to offer something bold and new when it came back. This is the musical we’ve been waiting for.
Variety Review of A Strange Loop
The new musical by Michael R. Jackson performs a phenomenal feat — it is both a raw and unflinching interrogation of identity and the most furiously entertaining show on Broadway. … [The show] is a probing and free-wheeling explosion of the form. It’s political only in the sense that some people consider being fat, Black and queer as hostile to convention. And it’s brave only insofar as it’s unafraid to be honest about how that feels. … Even truth can be subjective, but “A Strange Loop” doesn’t stoop or pander to solicit understanding and empathy. Undoubtedly there are details that may elude typical (read: white, straight, affluent) Broadway theatergoers, language and references specific to Black and/or queer culture presented here without explanatory commas. While “A Strange Loop” may feel “radical” to some (in the parlance of Usher’s mom), to others it will be a rare and revolutionary moment of recognition. … Already intentional and self-aware about its position as a commercial piece of Black art, on Broadway “A Strange Loop” packs an even more forceful elbow to the ribs. … A recent college graduate stepping into a career-making role, Spivey is a wonderfully dynamic, expressive performer and impossible not to root for. His Usher is wounded and searching, unsure of what he’ll find but resigned to keep drilling inward. Spivey finds the comedy in suffering rather than using it as a defense, a sophisticated posture to sustain while also leading an audience through the maze of his character’s mind.
Deadline Review of A Strange Loop
Portrayed by Broadway newcomer Jaquel Spivey in a performance so comfortably inhabited you’d be forgiven for assuming he wrote it, Strange Loop‘s Usher takes his name from the stop-gap Lion King job that pays (barely) his bills while he writes the autobiographical musical of his dreams. … Fluidly directed by Stephen Brackett, with Raja Feather Kelly’s clever choreography punctuating Jackson’s delightfully brash score, A Strange Loop grabs hold of us the moment Usher concludes that funny introduction. If the show begins to lose a little steam – but just a little – towards the end, it’s only because Jackson has already made his points so clearly, pointedly and winningly. … And as amiable as both Usher and this musical are, they can both be ferocious and unsparing. … Spivey…is a marvel of dexterity, moving quickly and expertly from laughs to heartbreak, from music to monologue, and he’s matched every step by a fabulous, mixed-gender and physically diverse ensemble that gives voice to the Thoughts and the parents and the ghosts and the hook-ups.