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    ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Review: Alicia Keys’s Musical Finds Its Groove on Broadway

    The retooled jukebox musical, with its top-notch performances and exciting choreography, “stands out as one of the rare must-sees” in a crowded season.There was never much doubt that the Alicia Keys musical, “Hell’s Kitchen,” was going to be on Broadway. Keys spent 12 years developing a loosely autobiographical jukebox of her songs, incorporating such hits as “Girl on Fire,” “Fallin’” and “No One.”The problem is that while it played to sold-out crowds, the show that premiered at the Public Theater in November had herky-jerky pacing, a few too many groan-inducing scenes, and a second act that lost sight of whatever point the story was trying to make. (In his review for The New York Times, Jesse Green pointed out that, after the intermission, the show tumbled “directly into the potholes it spent its first half so smartly avoiding.”)Yet here we are now, with “Hell’s Kitchen” at the Shubert Theater, a few blocks from where the show’s action is set. Having seen the first version last fall, I had jitters. But “Hell’s Kitchen” has earned its place on Broadway: The revised show is thrilling from beginning to end, and easily stands out as one of the rare must-sees in a crowded season.All this happened without a major overhaul to Michael Greif’s production, which has a book by Kristoffer Diaz. The cast and creative teams are essentially the same, and there have been judicious tweaks and trims rather than radical changes. The main differences are further refined technical elements and, most important, a subtle but crucial change in focus.That adjustment is evident from the start, with a new line that kicks off the story: “Because I’m your mother, that’s why.” We are thrown in the middle of what is clearly a recurring argument between the Keys stand-in, 17-year-old Ali (the sensational Maleah Joi Moon), and her mother, Jersey (Shoshana Bean, in top form). Jersey has been raising her daughter on her own, without much help from Ali’s father, Davis (Brandon Victor Dixon), and is very protective of her kid. Mother and daughter live just off Times Square, in the neighborhood of the show’s title, and Jersey is fearful that her daughter will fall prey to the streets’ many dangers — we are in the late 1990s, and Jersey is eager for Mayor Giuliani to “clean all of this right up.”The relationship between Ali (Moon) and her mother, Jersey (Shoshana Bean), has been sharpened in the Broadway iteration of this coming-of-age show.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesWe are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    ‘Stereophonic’ Review: Hitmakers Rendered in Sublime Detail

    In David Adjmi’s new play, with songs by Will Butler, a ’70s band’s success breeds tension, and punches up the volume on Broadway.Peering behind the mystique of rock ’n’ roll has undeniable voyeuristic appeal. So there is an immediate thrill to seeing the mahogany-paneled control room and glassed-in sound booth that fill the Golden Theater stage, where “Stereophonic” opened on Friday. But David Adjmi’s astonishing new play, with songs by the former Arcade Fire member Will Butler, delivers far more than a dishy glimpse inside the recording studio during rock’s golden age.A fly-on-the-wall study of how people both need and viciously destroy each other, “Stereophonic” is a fiery family drama, as electrifying as any since “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Its real-time dissection of making music — a collaboration between flawed, gifted artists wrangled into unison — is ingeniously entertaining and an incisive meta commentary on the nature of art. The play is a staggering achievement, and already feels like a must-see American classic.It’s 1976 in Sausalito, Calif., and a not-yet-famous band — at least not solely inspired by Fleetwood Mac — is laying down the record that will propel it to stardom and unravel the personal lives of its members (in much the same way that making “Rumours” did for Fleetwood Mac). The setting (a marvel by scenic designer David Zinn) is a pressure-cooker: The coffee machine is broken but there’s a gallon bag of cocaine, and tensions and affections — both creative and personal — are running hot.Stillness and silence are as expressive as Adjmi’s meticulously orchestrated dialogue, body language sometimes even more so, our critic writes.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesDirected with a conductor’s precision by Daniel Aukin, “Stereophonic” is an epic canvas rendered in hyper-intimate detail: whispered confidences and technical adjustments, slouches and stares, lots of lying around and rolling joints. Stillness and silence are as expressive as Adjmi’s meticulously orchestrated dialogue, body language sometimes even more so. It’s possible to read the band’s ascension to fame beyond the confines of the studio, as its previous album creeps up the Billboard charts, in the swiveling hips of its lead singer alone (and in the progression of prints and flares in Enver Chakartash’s divine costumes).When the poetic and insecure Diana, played with stunning vulnerability by Sarah Pidgeon, sits down at the piano some 45 minutes into the three-hour show, the actor’s radiant voice delivers the first significant composition the audience hears: “Bright,” a folk-tinged rock ballad with sterling, ethereal vocals. Until then, notes trickle out in brief bursts. Often interrupted or doled out in riffs, the expressions of character and discord generated by Butler’s music are abstract — their fragmentation designed to make you want more. (Savor the early sessions when everyone can stand to be in the same room.)We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Harvard’s Taylor Swift Scholars Have Thoughts on ‘The Tortured Poets Department’

    The students taking Harvard University’s class on the singer are studying up. Their final papers are due at the end of the month.Fans of Taylor Swift often study up for a new album, revisiting the singer’s older works to prepare to analyze lyrics and song titles for secret messages and meanings.“The Tortured Poets Department” is getting much the same treatment, and perhaps no group of listeners was better prepared than the students at Harvard University currently studying Ms. Swift’s works in an English class devoted entirely to the artist. The undergraduate course, “Taylor Swift and Her World,” is taught by Stephanie Burt, who has her students comparing Ms. Swift’s songs to works by poets and writers including Willa Cather, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth.On Thursday night, about 50 students from the class gathered in a lecture hall on campus to listen to Ms. Swift’s new album. Mary Pankowski, a 22-year-old senior studying history of art and architecture, wore a cream sweatshirt she bought at Ms. Swift’s Eras tour last year. The group made beaded friendship bracelets to celebrate the new album, she said.When the clock struck midnight, the classroom erupted into applause, and the analysis began. First, the group listened through the album once without discussing, just taking it all in.Certain lines, however, immediately caused a stir, said Samantha Wilhoit, a junior studying government — like a reference to the singer Charlie Puth and the scathing lyrics to the song “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived,” Ms. Wilhoit, 21, said.A line from the song “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart,” in which Ms. Swift sings, “I cry a lot but I am so productive,” also seemed to resonate, Ms. Wilhoit said, laughing.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    What 80 Artists, Musicians and Writers Are Starting Right Now

    Alice McDermott, 70, writer There are three kinds of novels I’ve never taken to heart: science fiction, murder mysteries and novels about novelists. So I’ve decided to try my hand at each. If I fail, they’re probably not books I’d want to read anyway. Thurston Moore, 65, musician and author I’m putting the final touches […] More

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    Tracy Chapman, Stephen King and Chloë Sevigny on Their Debuts

    Alice McDermott, 70, writer There are three kinds of novels I’ve never taken to heart: science fiction, murder mysteries and novels about novelists. So I’ve decided to try my hand at each. If I fail, they’re probably not books I’d want to read anyway. Thurston Moore, 65, musician and author I’m putting the final touches […] More

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    How to Begin a Creative Life

    Alice McDermott, 70, writer There are three kinds of novels I’ve never taken to heart: science fiction, murder mysteries and novels about novelists. So I’ve decided to try my hand at each. If I fail, they’re probably not books I’d want to read anyway. Thurston Moore, 65, musician and author I’m putting the final touches […] More

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    How Do You Become an Artist?

    Alice McDermott, 70, writer There are three kinds of novels I’ve never taken to heart: science fiction, murder mysteries and novels about novelists. So I’ve decided to try my hand at each. If I fail, they’re probably not books I’d want to read anyway. Thurston Moore, 65, musician and author I’m putting the final touches […] More

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    What Jon Bon Jovi Did After Losing His Voice

    Alice McDermott, 70, writer There are three kinds of novels I’ve never taken to heart: science fiction, murder mysteries and novels about novelists. So I’ve decided to try my hand at each. If I fail, they’re probably not books I’d want to read anyway. Thurston Moore, 65, musician and author I’m putting the final touches […] More