The musical Hairspray, based on the John Waters film, was an instant smash. How could it not be, with uptempo songs and quirky fun characters, the show was a crowd pleaser of all ages. To date it has grossed over $252 million according to a recent Playbill.com article.
But when Kyle Taylor Parker sings a rendition of “Run and Tell That,” one of the pivotal songs in the politically charged musical, he changes the “temperature” of the number. It becomes a slow funkalicious R&B jam – think Erykah Badu or D’Angelo. The music leans into the groove and you are able to feel the lyrics, and get different emotions from the songs as the lyrics– sans the dancing– elevate to the forefront of our consciousness.
That is what Parker does with all songs, but particularly this carefully curated collection of Broadway and pop tunes, remixed and transformed for the return of “The Soul Session,” at 9:30 p.m. this Sunday at The Green Room 42, 570 Tenth Avenue, in NYC.
The Soul Session is more than just adding base lines and R&B syncopation to songs. It’s bridging the sometimes wide chasm between theater and a public that increasingly doesn’t feel Broadway is for them. For Parker, music and theater are both very personal.
“This is my take on Broadway,” he says in a phone interview. “It’s my comment on life as a Black Gay man in New York where Trump is our president. I am doing that through Broadway music and soul music. Broadway has always been that for me. It’s a band of misfits.”
Parker joined this band of “misfits” early. At around five-years-old, he began attending musical summer camps and taking classes. The arts has been a healing and exploratory process for him.
“My parents went through a divorce when I was very young,” Parker says. “I was a quiet child and theater was an outlet. I could sing. I could dance. I was putting all that angst into the imaginary world. I am not much for words, but I can put it in a song or character.”
It didn’t take long for all that talent to find a large audience. He quickly rose up the ranks to Broadway stages starring in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and understudying for Billy Porter in Kinky Boots. He ultimately took on the lead role of “Lola.”
“It’s my comment on life as a Black Gay man in New York where Trump is our president. I am doing that through Broadway music and soul music.”
Kyle Taylor has been performing alongside the greats for so long it shouldn’t be a surprise some of the guest performers who accompany him at The Soul Session. The amazing Alex Newell was just one of the previous guests. And this Sunday’s event will include Wayne Brady (Kinky Boots) and Christiani Pitts (A Bronx Tale) plus many other surprises.
The show is directed by Nathan Peck, with musical direction from Joshua Stephen Kartes and a four piece band at the ready.
The show is sure to bring in Broadway fans and celebs throughout the evening. But ultimately Parker wants to move us all.
“That is my big fat hope,” Parker says, “a dream for me that one day someone hears the version of my songs and the way I heard it. I want to grab everyone and say ‘you matter.’”
For tickets and more information please visit http://www.thegreenroom42.com/