Review: Alicia Keys’ ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Reveals a Tender Empire State of Mind

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Alicia Keys’ “Hell’s Kitchen” is a rambling coming-of-age tale, enlivened by excellent music and dancing.

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Meanwhile, Henry Lewis makes his own kind of magic as the “Mind Mangler.”, is marinated in her excellent music, featuring some well-known songs as well as originals she has composed for the it implies but never delivers on—and spiritually never wants to dwell in. Its mean streets are not that mean, its central romantic storyline never rises to a passion that the audience feels invested in, and its family dramas are of the safe, after-school special kind.

The show also has a habit of neutralizing all points of contention; it will set up a conflict, then have everyone quickly get along, or see their errors or understand their failings, because everyone is basically understanding. Knuck is an extremely responsible, quiet guy who is mortified to learn Ali is younger than she had led him to believe; their relationship never really takes flight, and they have a most mature separation.

Robert Brill’s scenic design is a modular, multi-level affair to convey the high-rises and crowded streets as simply as possible; Dede Ayite’s costume design is NYC-perfect; Natasha Katz’s lighting and Peter Nigrini’s projections add extra, but unobtrusive, city scale and feel.

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