After the “Great White Way” was shuttered for so long, it’s a true joy to see musical theater alive and thriving. And where better to celebrate its gritty comeback than the Museum of Broadway, a Mecca for anyone interested in the history of the American musical?
And what better guide for an insider’s view of the creation of a legendary moment in musical theater than poet and performer extraordinaire reg e gaines? In a “Breakfast on Broadway session at the museum, he captivated an audience of enthusiastic theatergoers with a freewheeling look at the creation of Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk—the pioneering musical. A few highlights:
Creative brainstorming gave it birth: A musical, rollicking revue of Black history told through music, poetry, and the heels of the then 22-year old tap phenom, Savion Glover, Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk began in a room in The Public Theater. There, the artistic director, George C. Wolfe brought together a creative team including reg and Savion. Working six days a week for six hours a day for three months, this talented all-Black team envisioned, played with, and crafted a fresh, vibrant experience that theatergoers remember to this day.
Immersion opened the floodgates: George Wolfe gave reg a box of Bic pens and a pile of legal pads and challenged him to work with Savion and other creatives to capture in poetry, a new kind of Black history. Inspired and energized—and free to create—reg responded with Tony nominated lyrics. Fiery and fluid, reg’s words guided audiences from the holds of slave ships to the Harlem Renaissance and beyond.
Playfulness sparked invention: Free to explore, experiment, and follow their instincts, reg and the rest of the creative team crafted a new kind of musical revue that ultimately became a Broadway sensation. While most Broadway musicals open with a show-stopping number, Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk began differently, signaling to the audience that this would be a new kind of show. As reg noted, you need to give the audience “the rules of your story” right up front.
Joy and resilience gave it a beating heart: Bring in ‘Da Noise tackled tough, thorny issues that we are still grappling with as a country—but it did it with style, verve, and resilience. One theatergoer in the audience said she and her daughter had seen the show over and over again. At a rough moment in their family, the daughter turned to her mom and said, “We need a ‘Bring in ‘Da Noise’ fix. What a tribute!
Joy, energy, creativity, playfulness—let’s remember their power as we all write on! Bravo, reg—inspire on!
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