When you enter the opulent Palace Theatre to see the Tupac Shakur-inspired musical Holler If Ya Hear Me, you will immediately see how much the place has changed since its last show, Annie, was in residence. The back of the house is now blocked off, and seats closest to the stage are in a stadium-style configuration.
“I’m very excited about the intimate nature of the Palace Theatre now,” Tony-winning Holler director Kenny Leon told Broadway.com. “I love when people who are different from each other sit next to each other, and I want a generational explosion for this show. I want 18-year-olds there, and I want 80-year-olds there. The key to that is to make the play intimate, so everyone can hear it, feel it and see it.”
The theater’s capacity has been reduced from 1740 to 1120 specifically for Holler. Rows A through J now rise in a direct line from the edge of the stage to the front of the mezzanine.
“[I didn’t want the audience] sitting beneath the stage. I want them above it. Now they are looking right into the eyes of the actors, and the actors look right back into the eyes of the audience. It creates a give and take between the artist and the audience that we haven’t experienced for a long time on Broadway.”
In addition to physical changes in the theater, Leon explained other ways he made the show accessible. “We got rid of things that people think they hate,” Leon explained. “If they think they hate blood, let’s get rid of blood. If they think they hate guns, let’s get rid of guns. Let’s tell this story in a way that most of America can get it. The key to all of it is intimacy.”
Holler If Ya Hear Me opens at Broadway's Palace Theatre on June 19. Get a look at the new musical here and here.