Alicia Keys Returns to Her Roots with Her New Musical, “Hell’s Kitchen”

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Alicia Keys’s new musical is opening in a Broadway theatre about a ten-minute walk from where she grew up, and she’s given the show the name of that neighborhood: “Hell’s Kitchen.” It incorporates her songs to tell a story about a teen-ager named Ali who is growing up and finding her love of music, and it is even set in the apartment building where Keys was raised. Yet she is adamant that the show is not autobiographical, “because a lot of people think ‘autobiographical’ and they think quite literally.” In casting the role of Ali, a young woman very much like herself, Keys was looking for a “triple-threat” performer who also had “the energy of a true New Yorker . . . That’s the hardest part, because you can’t teach that.” Plus, a conversation with the musician Rhiannon Giddens, who plays banjo on Beyoncé’s No. 1 country hit, “Texas Hold ’Em.” Giddens’s music has long explored the Black roots of country music, and the furthest reaches of the African diaspora.

Alicia Keys Returns to Her Roots with Her New Musical, “Hell’s Kitchen”

In her musical opening on Broadway, Keys tells a story very much like her own life, using her own hit songs—but don’t call it autobiographical.

Rhiannon Giddens, Americana’s Queen, on Cultivating the Black Roots of Country Music

The singer, banjo player, music scholar, and opera composer talks with David Remnick about the legacy of Black string music—and how not to be limited by genre.

The New Yorker Radio Hour is a co-production of WNYC Studios and The New Yorker.

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