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Freestyle Love Supreme: Bringing Hip Hop and Broadway Legends to Broad St.

Jun 15, 2022 09:13AM ● By Mac Johnson
Freestyle Love Supreme performance on stage

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The latest Broadway blockbuster to take the stage at Miller Theater is Freestyle Love Supreme. Since its inception in the early 2000’s the shows has used a masterful combination of comedy, quick wittedness and undeniable skills on the mic to captivate audiences. Freestyle Love Supreme answers the question, “what do you do when life gives you lemons?”. The answer, you simply make hip-hop.

Freestyle Love Supreme was co-created by Thomas Kail, who is still on as the show’s director during its run in Philadelphia, Anthony Veneziale, a south Philly native who is starring in the show while it’s in town, and Lin Manuel Miranda, who agreed to perform for one night only in Philadelphia on June 10th. 

At its core, Freestyle Love Supreme is a show of hip-hop improvisation. No script, no plot, just rhythm, a rhyme scheme and you, the viewer. For one night you’re more than just a witness. It’s much more than call and response, more than crowd participation. When you see this show you become a  member of a tony award winning hip hop collaborative. Each song performed on stage is birthed by the ideas of those that are watching it, taking fan serve to another level. 

As expected from a show co created by Lin Manuel Miranda, hip hop stands at the forefront. But don’t let the stage and setting fool you. The show is a battering ram for gatekeepers of hip hop. From Kool & The Gang to Meek Mill and every rapper in between, even the best lyricists will tip their fitted cap at the skills of the cast and crew.

In addition to a surprise appearance from Lin Manuel, the show also calls on other heavy hitters in the theater world. Tony Award winning actor James Monroe Iglehart and Grammy award winning actor Christopher Jackson. Both find space in the star ensemble. And what can be more hip hop than beatboxing? The show even features two world class beat-boxers in Mark Martin and Kaila Mullady.

Although the show has a short run in Philadelphia, I believe there to be several major ties to the 215. In addition to one of the founding members being a south Philly native, I think the very title “Freestyle Love Supreme” has Philadelphia roots as well. The name too closely reflects the title of John Coltrane’s iconic  album “A Love Supreme” to be mere coincidence. It’s important to note that  John Coltrane is not from Philadelphia, however he lived in Philly exclusively for some time in the 50’s before moving his family to New York. The historic home still exists in Strawberry Mansion today. While Freestyle Love Supreme stands about as far from jazz as sonically possible, the freestyling, spur of the moment nature of the show could be compared to the free flowing spirit of jazz, the genre Coltrane helped elevate.

What makes Freestyle Love Supreme truly unique is that every single showing provides each viewer with a totally different experience. Hearing some words or phrases will take me back in time to the fond moments of hearing them during a performance, but that’s just my experience. Every person, every performance will have its own individual flavor. That’s also what gives the show an incredible replay value, making it worth seeing again and again.

When it’s time in Philly wraps up, the show heads west to San Diego and Los Angeles. The show has not yet announced showings this fall. If you’re hoping for a return trip to Philadelphia or perhaps a stop in New York City, you’ll just have to wait for it.

 Mac Johnson is a Emmy nominated documentarian, award winning television producer and writer whose sole purpose is to provide a platform for underserved communities. He is a proud HBCU graduate, having studied communications at Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University. Mac is also an active member of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and looks for community outreach and volunteering opportunities in his spare time. He is a die hard Eagles fan, vegan food connoisseur and a lover of all things hip-hop, gospel and jazz.

You can connect with him on social media:
Twitter: @mac___78
Instagram: @mac___78
email: [email protected]

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