NYU's Kristoffer Diaz makes his Broadway debut with 'Hell’s Kitchen'

May 22, 2024

It was kind of like I was collaborating with a person and also with her catalog, which has some of the greatest songs ever written. You know at some point someone is going to stop what they’re doing and sing “Fallin’,” which is legitimately one of the greatest songs ever written. So we went moment to moment to moment to moment. In addition to writing songs, she would come into rehearsal and teach the songs, teach the harmonies there on the spot. "Hell's Kitchen" has been described as a love letter to the city and its creative community.

The score includes some of her biggest hits, as well as new material she created for the production. How did the team work together to decide which songs to use and how to use them?

It was kind of like I was collaborating with a person and also with her catalog, which has some of the greatest songs ever written. You know at some point someone is going to stop what they’re doing and sing “Fallin’,” which is legitimately one of the greatest songs ever written.

In addition to writing your own plays, you’ve worked on adaptations—including a theatrical version of Disney’s "Hercules," and the TV version of "Rent"—and you wrote the Netflix series "GLOW." This project seems like a hybrid of those, a combination of original and adaptation.

When I adapted the Disney film Hercules, it was really clear from Disney's point of view that there was no messing around with the story. So we went moment to moment to moment to moment. You could change things inside, but the story was the story, which is its own freeing kind of thing. The difference with this project was the markers could go anywhere. It’s like you’re doing a puzzle and you look for the borders first, and then fill in. And the collaboration was not just with Alicia but with Michael Greif, the director, and Camille A. Brown, the choreographer, and the cast. We all had a sort of permission to play. I think it ended up being more liberating than limiting.

I have to ask: What was it like collaborating with an artist of this level of renown? She has written so many big hits, has won 16 Grammy Awards, and has been named to every list of cultural giants

Eighty percent of the time, she’s my buddy, and when we get together, we sit in a room and talk about kids or whatever. And then 20 percent  of the time I’m like, "Oh, right, you are the most famous person I know by an order of magnitude that’s not comparable." And the other thing is, she‘s not just famous—she’s a genius. In addition to writing songs, she would come into rehearsal and teach the songs, teach the harmonies there on the spot. She would sit down and write things in front of us, create harmonies. That collaboration was incredible.

"Hell's Kitchen" has been described as a love letter to the city and its creative community. How important is setting the story in the housing complex known for its artists? 

Alicia grew up in Manhattan Plaza, and she wanted it to be part of this moment in her life, when she was surrounded by music, by artists. That was central to the idea, that the building and its community were a character. It was foundational to who she became.

The source of this news is from New York University

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