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‘The Soul Train Musical’ features a soundtrack with 40 years of American music that celebrates our true colors. The dancing and the music that are the real stars.

Review by Vince Mediaa

The Toni Rembe Theatre has been transformed into a 70’s TV with looping train tracks to take us back to the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. The American Conservatory Theater opens their new season with the world premiere of the Broadway bound “Hippest Trip The Soul Train Musical”. It is now taking on passengers through October 8th. Playwright Dominique Morisseau who created the hit musical “The Temptations”, had a pre-Broadway run at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The Wednesday night opening at the Toni Rembe Theater was star studded including some of the original Soul Train dancers in attendance along with the original TV show producer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.

Soul Train is a bio jukebox musical since the sound track is the amazing music from 40 years of R&B, Hip Hop, Rap and Disco. Morisseau follows the career of show host and former News Journalist Don Cornelius. The authentic Quentin Darrington is the Don, and he is on stage the entire 2 hour 40 minute musical. In the early 1970s, Cornelius broke all the rules on national television to pitch Soul Train to producers. They didn’t bite so “The Don” learned to produce his own show. As the dance show moved to LA and as years passed the Train broke down as Cornelius battled with Dick Clark productions and his own demons and production team.

Hippest Trip The Soul Train Musical is a dance show and sizzling musical. Its pure eye candy, colorful, dramatic performances, and a soundtrack of our American culture. Including R&B pop funk, hip-hop and the current trend new jack swing. The long awaited world premiere of the Soul Train Musical at American Conservatory Theater, is a nostalgic celebration of urban music and dance. Camille A. Brown choreography is a blast of the classic moves and a pop funk that will make you dance at your seat. The audience was on their feet many times during the production numbers. Then boom the songs end mid stream - in the first few dance scenes the songs end abruptly. The Don moves in to tell the story of his rise to fame, and it is not always a pleasant story. Similar to Morisseau's book for “Ain’t Too Proud” when she wrote about the Temptations.

The live band on stage playing dozens of classics from the 40 years of urban music is

by Kenny Seymour’s sizzling arrangements. Bold Director Kamilah Forbes works with amazing talent with a company of dancers directed by Brown’s choreography that becomed the soul of the Train and the heartbeat of the musical. The iconic Soul Train dance line and the change of the styles of music and movement deliver. Costume desigher Dede Ayite’s eyepopping costume fit, mixed with Jason Sherwood’s graphic scenic design and the lazer friendly lighting of Jen Schri will keep you head looking for the focus knob.

A clip of the classic dance line that is featured in the second act;

One of the arks is the battle between "Soul Train '' and Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" and DCP goal to steal Cornelius's pride and ad his own "Soul Unlimited" show. It didn’t work but distracted the developing story of the Dons son moving to his side to take over his dads legacy. A King Lear subtext is engaged since the Don has two sons from his first wife Delores played by the superb Angela Birchett. Cornelius finds his power weakening, and his skills as the king who makes or breaks careers. His dislike for the new trends in music during his 40 year reign gave way to new genres of dance and music. He resisted any kind of change, yet the change kept his dance show always popular and TV friendly.

The Don is unlikeable, not compared to Ike Turner but still difficult to like. I also feel that Darrington can not carry this show to Broadway, he is on stage 98% of the musical, it is not an easy part to play. The Don is a failed father and husband, he abused his second wife, dated some of the kids that danced on his show and would not let his son take over as producer. The conflict with his younger son Tony played by the terrific Sidney Dupont is never settled. Tony Cornelius was in the audience at Wednesday night's World Premiere along with some of the original dances from the TV show. The story is tragic yet uplifting during the many production numbers and the dance is surely the star of this almost 3 hour musical.

Hippest Trip Train Ride has a lot of work to do on its journey to Broadway. Once it tightens up and loses about 20 min - it could be a dynamite hit in New York. The opening night crowd was on their feet during the finale and classic dance mix featuring the entire cast. These huge dance closing numbers are becoming a predictable ending to celebration musicals. But they are fun and the audenices come to expect the dance party at the end of these new bio musicals. I recommend you get a seat for this Train ride if you can, the show is just about sold out but some great single seats remain. Come ready to dance in your seat and boogie with the cast at the end of the show.

American Conservatory Theatre

Presents a World-Premiere

Hippest Trip — The Soul Train Musical

Written by Dominique Morisseau.

Directed by Kamilah Forbes.

Choreographed by Camille A. Brown,

Music Director Sean Kana

Closes October 2, 2023

Toni Rembe Theater, 405 Geary Street, San Francisco.

Tickets are available online at

or by calling the box office 415-749-2228.


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