Dream Cast: Broadway Goes Gangsta for R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet
Our dream picks for R. Kelly's "hip-hopera."
When R&B star and Grammy Award winner R. Kelly announced his intention to bring his epic "hip-hopera" Trapped in the Closet to Broadway, we nearly dropped our goblets. Pimps and strippers and midgets, oh my! After three straight weeks of around-the-clock YouTubing and Googling, we finally think we know what the (existing) 22-chapter all-singing, all-riffing, all-really? "musical" is all about, and which stars of stage and pop culture have the chops to make it go on Broadway. Flip through our photo gallery below for a quick look at TheaterMania's dream players, then scroll on for the thought-process behind this (totally ridiculous) dream casting.
[Reader Beware: This whole post is one giant SPOILER alert. You've been warned. Trapped in the Closet was written by R. Kelly and contains adult situations unsuitable for young children.]
Sylvester: Phillip Boykin (Porgy and Bess)
The gig: Central figure of the "narrative," husband of Gwendolyn. His story begins after a one-night stand with Cathy. Brother-in-law of ex-con Twan.
The casting: Tony Award nominee Boykin usually finds himself trapped in rapey character parts (in addition to playing Crown in Porgy and Bess, he was also in his college production of The Rape of Lucretia.) Here, Boykin finally catches a break as the pseudo-protagonist in our fake musical. Big numbers that need to be sung with swagger and acting-heavy betrayal scenes should add up to at least another Tony Award nomination, if not a solid win.
Gwendolyn: Patina Miller (Sister Act)
The gig: Wife of Sylvester, sister of Twan. Follows her husband and discovers his infidelity (though she's late getting wise to it being with her best friend, Cathy). Sylvester catches Gwendolyn in an affair of her own with James when he finds a condom wrapper in their marital bed. Brutal.
The casting: Miller can hold her own when Boykin/Sylvester whips out his beretta (not a euphemism). She'll also be able to unleash her inner HBIC and scene-stealing voice to make this small part meaty enough for an awards-season sweep. R. Kelly will probably fall in love with her.
Twan: Alice Ripley (Next to Normal)
The gig: Brother of Gwendolyn, brother-in-law to Sylvester. Only one day out of prison and he's already been shot. Discovers his ex (Tina) had their child and is now a lesbian. Prone to violence. Friend of the reefer stick.
The casting: Alice Ripley. Boom.
Cathy (a.k.a. Mary): Da'Vine Joy Randolph (Ghost The Musical)
The gig: Wife of Rufus. Schemes with Sylvester to engage in one-night-stand plotted to break up her marriage.
Rufus: Norm Lewis (Porgy and Bess)
The gig: Pastor having an affair with Chuck on the down low. Comes home to find out his wife, Cathy, has slept with Sylvester (Boykin). Decides to end it with Chuck, only to have their phone break-up conversation overheard by Randolph. Nothing good happens to anyone in this show, ever.
The casting: A Norm Lewis/Tituss Burgess over-the-celly break-up duet? So much yes. Lewis would also reunite with Boykin to get those old Porgy and Bess "you stole my woman" sparks flying again. The emotional heft and sensitivity Lewis displayed as King Triton could also add sweet morality to this sprawling musical of sin, no Little Mermaid heelys required.
Chuck: Tituss Burgess (The Little Mermaid)
The gig: Secret lover to Rufus. Threatens Cathy with a knife in a fit of jealous rage. When Rufus tries to break off their affair, crazy-town drama ensues.
The casting: The untimely end of TV's 30 Rock means the untimely end of D'Fwan, Burgess' scene-stealing queen bee cameo character. Here, he can get back to flexing those same comic chops while wailing out the high notes like a proper divo. Did we mention the Lewis/Burgess break-up duet?
Bridget: Orfeh (Legally Blonde)
The casting: Southern wife of James. Three months pregnant due to secret affair with Big Man, a midget stripper. ("Midget! Midget! Midget!" - actual lyrics. Thank you, R. Kelly.) In chapter nine of the hip-hopera, Bridget is found to be allergic to cherries. No reason, they just want you to know she's allergic to cherries. So let's do a dancing cherries number (as choreographed by Christopher Gattelli).
The casting: Orfeh's the cast member most likely to hold her own next to Cee Lo (we're getting to him next), and with real-life hottie hubby Andy Karl busy with Broadway's Edwin Drood revival, she has her nights free to be back in the spotlight. She's the only one who can belt the [expletive deleted] out of Bridget's confession number, and has experience working with both small costars and big packages. (PS: That was a Legally Blonde joke.)
Sgt. James: Cee-Lo Green (Singer/songwriter/rapper/coach on The Voice)
The gig: Police officer having an affair with Cathy. Married to Bridget.
The casting: Cee-Lo can vocally match the mad-talented Orfeh/Bridget, and his star-power will bring big-money producers out of the woodwork. Plus, picture Cee Lo singing his super-smash hit "Forget You" at 54 Below during his (imaginary) post-curtain residency...you want to go to there. The guy typically appears in peacock feathers and bird suits, so to whomever is designing this: make it count.
Big Man: Christopher Sieber (Shrek the Musical), as Lord Farquaad
The gig: Midget stripper having an affair with Bridget. Has serious problems with fainting and bowel control. R. Kelly takes these character details very seriously.
The casting: We already know Chris Sieber can handle eight shows a week on his knees (and performing the role as Farquaad will only make this freaky character that much more satisfying). The Tony is a lock.
Rosie (the nosy neighbor): Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole (Grey Gardens)
The gig: Prying next door neighbor of Gwendolyn and Sylvester. Married to Randolph. A one-woman game of telephone, propagating neighborhood gossip.
The casting: We just think every dream cast should have an Ebersole. Or two. She'd have outrageous comic mojo with her stage husband (see below). And costume? DONE.
Randolph: Jimmy Fallon (actor/comedian/television host/musician)
The gig: Gassy, awkward, rotund old man who's married to Rosie. Works as a janitor at Rufus' church, where he overhears the news about Rufus' affair.
The casting: Fallon's been doing awesome covers and ballin' out with the music set the last several years, so he's primed and ready for a jump to Broadway. Fallon's History of Rap series with Justin Timberlake gives him the street cred to go R&B, and Hairspray has been closed for a while--time to put someone back in a fat suit. (We nominate Timberlake to fill in if Fallon's schedule can't accommodate eight shows a week.) Besides, Ebersole and Fallon? Cue Fallon breaking character..........now.
Rev. Mosley James Evans: ?uestlove (DJ/drummer/record producer)
The gig: Leader of the church's Peace Within Choir. Works to save Pimp Lucius from a dastardly fate.
The casting: ?uestlove knows how to drum, spin, Tweet (@questlove) and lead a band. We'd like to see him as Broadway's new Paul Gemignani, with double-duty as the on-stage choir leader dueting with Ebersole. (We also imagine he and Boykin will have the greatest Broadway bromance of all time.) Wherever Fallon goes, ?uestlove is sure to be close behind; we also imagine he's the only way R. Kelly would let Fallon in the cast. (Sorry Jimmy.)
Pimp Lucius: Christine Ebersole (42nd Street)
The gig: Stuttering pimp. (No, really.) Falsely leads Reverend Evans to believe he wants to reform.
The casting: Stuttering Ebersole/?uestlove showdown, say WHAT?! This great bit part helps TheaterMania keep its promise to double-cast Ebersole in fake musicals.
Tina: Nikki M. James (Book of Mormon)
The gig: Ex-girlfriend of Twan, now sleeping with Roxanne. Refused to turn Twan in when they were arrested for possession because she was pregnant with his baby.
The casting: Have you seen this girl? Gorgeous. She can sing. She can act--she'll turn Tina's scene-stealing eye-twitch into a production highlight. Most importantly, though, she'll be the one doing the best girl-on-girl duet since Rent with...
Roxanne: Julia Murney (Wicked)
The gig: Tina's lover. Responsible for getting Twan sent to jail during a road trip. Fiery, angry, and ready to do anything in order to defend Tina and "their" child.
The casting: Um, Julia Murney in cornrows. She's had them. She told us. There is a picture somewhere. Ask her about it on Twitter.
Joey, the mob boss: Richard Schiff (Glengarry Glen Ross)
The gig: Mob boss who goes with his sizable gut. Has beef with Twan. Does shady biz with Sylvester.
The casting: If there's anyone on Broadway who could scare Alice Ripley, Schiff is the guy. He's even got experience holding things hostage. Though we're not encouraging anyone to take on Ripley, ever.
The Beretta: Liza Minnelli (Are you seriously looking here for her credits?)
The gig: A gun. Yep.
The casting: She's sparkly, normally in black, and we want a "A-Rat-A-Tat-Tat" tap number. Considering how often the Beretta gets whipped out (a lot), it is crucial to give the role to a proper Tony-winner with audience appeal.
Verbal Foley: Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights)
The gig: Narrator/curse bleeper/audio FX
The casting: With all of the cursing, gun shots, narration, and sung clicky noises, we need our own Man-in-Chair. Who better? That's right, LMM, we Brought You On. Boo-yah.
The Closet: The Wardrobe (Beauty and the Beast)
The gig: Four walls, a door. The hiding place that gets it all started.
The casting: No one else on Broadway could play this role. Literally.
So there you have it. The official/unofficial dreamcast for Trapped in the Closet. Your move, R. Kelly.
P.S. If you have any idea what this show is about, kindly contact [email protected]; after YouTubing 22 chapters of this, we still have no idea what's going on.