Everything you need to know about 'A Strange Loop' in the West End
From how to get A Strange Loop tickets to when to see the Tony-winning musical at the Barbican in summer 2023, here’s your guide to A Strange Loop in London.
A Strange Loop took Broadway by storm. Now, for 12 weeks only, the groundbreaking musical comes to London’s West End. It’s all about Usher, a young, Black, and queer writer in New York City who wrestles with the thoughts in his head. As Usher struggles to balance his life and career, he must consider his future.
Michael R. Jackson’s debut Broadway musical earned him a Pulitzer Prize, two Tony Awards, and unanimous rave reviews. In a five-star New York Theatre Guide review, a critic said: “[No musicals] are as revolutionary as what Michael R. Jackson has accomplished with his Pulitzer Prize-winning musical. Thanks to his splendid writing and craftsmanship, as well as flawless and often shocking performances given by the cast… This is art as activism in its highest form.”
Before seeing A Strange Loop at the Barbican in summer 2023, discover more about the musical and why you need to be in the loop.
Book A Strange Loop tickets on London Theatre.
What is A Strange Loop about?
When audiences meet Usher, he’s working as a Broadway front-of-house worker at the New Amsterdam Theatre, home of The Lion King. He dreams of earning solely as a full-time theatre writer. But, in a world where Black queer voices remain silenced, Usher finds it difficult to advance his career.
So, when he receives the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a new play, he seizes it with both hands. However, he’s got a lot of questions. Notably, it’s a Tyler Perry ghostwriting gig. But money is money, and opportunities are opportunities.
As Usher navigates a complicated life, his six thoughts — and famous figures like Whitney Houston — guide him to overcoming his relationship with body image, identity, sexuality, and what it means to be a Black, queer writer in New York City.
Where is A Strange Loop playing?
All London performances of A Strange Loop will run at the Barbican. The Barbican Centre boasts a concert hall, two theatres, three cinemas, two art galleries, a public lending library, and a conservatory. The Barbican regularly hosts crowd-pleasing shows: My Neighbour Totoro, Anything Goes, and Royal Shakespeare Company seasons all ran at the Off-West End theatre.
How long is A Strange Loop?
A Strange Loop is a one-act musical for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Matinee performances begin at 2:30pm and end at 4:10pm. Evening performances start at 8pm and end at 9:40pm. Find out more about running times of West End musicals.
What days is A Strange Loop playing?
A Strange Loop plays eight performances a week at the Barbican. Matinee performances take place at 2:30pm on Thursdays and Saturdays. Evening performances take place at 8pm from Mondays through Saturdays. For the complete performance schedule and show times, visit the A Strange Loop page to learn more.
When did A Strange Loop premiere?
A Strange Loop wasn’t an overnight success. It took 20 years for the initial ideas to form a Broadway musical. Follow the show's journey from first thoughts to its big wins.
- 2002: In his final year at New York University, Michael R. Jackson writes “Why I Can’t Get Work,” a monologue about a Black gay man.
- 2006: For one night only, Jackson presents Fast Food Town at Ars Nova. The one-act, one-person show combines the aforementioned monologue with additional ideas.
- 2017: A Strange Loop goes into workshops at Musical Theatre Factory.
- 2019: The show premieres off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. The show extends due to popular demand.
- 2020: A Strange Loop wins the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It’s up against Heroes of the Fourth Turning by Will Arbery, and Soft Power by David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori.
- 2021: A Strange Loop opens in Washington, D. C. ahead of Broadway performances. The show extends due to popular demand.
- 2022: The musical premieres at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway. Early previews are cancelled due to Covid-19 cases within the cast.
- 2022: A Strange Loop picks up 11 Tony Award nominations, winning two.
- 2023: After 314 performances, A Strange Loop closes on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre.
- 2023: A Strange Loop runs for 12 weeks in London.
Who wrote A Strange Loop?
Michael R. Jackson wrote the book, music, and lyrics. The Detroit-based playwright graduated from New York University. Jackson's life merely informs the musical's plot — A Strange Loop is not autobiographical.
A Strange Loop is Jackson’s most successful show; Jackson was the first Black musical theatre writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. He’s also worked on a musical adaptation of the 2007 film, Teeth, as well as The Kids on the Lawn, a song cycle about America in 2024. Jackson’s musical, White Girl in Danger, opens Off-Broadway in 2023.
A Strange Loop characters
Unlike most musicals, there’s only one “human” character in A Strange Loop. That’s Usher, a black, queer, front-of-house theatre worker commissioned to ghostwrite a play about a black, queer artist. Usher’s assisted by his “thoughts” — the six-strong collective that bring his inner ideas to life. Find out more about the characters in A Strange Loop.
Usher: By day, Usher’s employed as a theatre worker at The Lion King. That’s not his only job though. He’s also hired to ghostwrite a new play.
The Thoughts: Who knew your ideas could transpire into real people? Throughout A Strange Loop, Usher’s Greek chorus of thoughts comes to life, helping, informing, and warning Usher of his future decisions. The six actors who play the Thoughts also double up as minor characters: Thought 5 plays Usher’s father, and Thought 4 plays Usher’s mother.
A Strange Loop songs
As Usher’s thoughts support him during A Strange Loop, it’s no surprise they often appear in the songs. The 17-strong tracklist boasts a variety of themes: the ironically-named opening number “Intermission Song” sees Usher consider what it means to be Black and queer, all based on Jackson’s years working front of house at The Lion King on Broadway.
Although the musical isn’t autobiographical, Jackson’s experiences inform stand-out songs. “Exile in Gayville” draws upon Jackson’s personal experiences dating as a gay man in New York City. Meanwhile, "Precious Little Dream/AIDS Is God's Punishment" commemorates Jackson’s friend who died from AIDS-related complications during the musical's rehearsal period. Here are all the songs in A Strange Loop.
"Intermission Song" - Usher, Thoughts
"Today" - Usher, Thoughts
"We Wanna Know" - Thoughts
"Inner White Girl" - Usher, Thoughts
"Didn't Want Nothin'" - Thought 5, Thoughts
"Exile in Gayville" - Usher, Thoughts
"Second Wave" - Usher
"Tyler Perry Writes Real Life" - Usher, Thought 3, Thoughts
"Writing a Gospel Play" - Usher, Thoughts
"A Sympathetic Ear" - Thought 1
"Inwood Daddy" - Usher, Thought 6, Thoughts
"Boundaries" - Usher
"Periodically" - Thought 4, Usher
"Didn't Want Nothin' Reprise" - Thought 5
"Precious Little Dream / AIDS Is God's Punishment" - Usher, Thoughts
"Memory Song" - Usher, Thoughts 2-6
"A Strange Loop" - Usher, Thoughts
What awards has A Strange Loop won?
A Strange Loop achieved a colossal feat, picking up “Best Musical” at all possible awards ceremonies. Here are all the major awards.
2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Best Book of a Musical (for Michael R. Jackson)
Drama Desk Awards
Outstanding Actor in a Musical (for Larry Owens)
Outstanding Actor in a Musical (for Jaquel Spivey)
Outstanding Director of a Musical (for Stephen Brackett)
Outstanding Lyrics (for Michael R. Jackson)
Outstanding Book of a Musical (for Michael R. Jackson)
Outer Critics Circle Awards
Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical
Outstanding Book of a Musical
Outstanding New Score
Outstanding Director of a Musical (for Stephen Brackett)
Outstanding Choreographer (for Raja Feather Kelly)
Outstanding Actor in a Musical (for Larry Owens)
Lucille Lortel Awards
Best Lead (for Larry Owens)
Best Featured Actor in a Musical (for John-Andrew Morrison)
Drama League Awards
Outstanding Production of a Musical
Major productions of A Strange Loop
Every time A Strange Loop starts a new production, it gains a legion of fans. So far, A Strange Loop has wowed U.S. audiences, but now the story of Usher and his six thoughts will go international, with performances in London. From inception to London, here are all the major productions of A Strange Loop.
- 2017: A Strange Loop workshops occur at the Musical Theatre Factory in Manhattan. Spamilton star and Musical Theatre Factory volunteer Larry Owens played Usher.
- 2019: A Strange Loop premieres Off-Broadway. The musical runs at Playwrights Horizons from 24 May to 7 July. After rave reviews, A Strange Loop extends to 28 July. The musical wins Outstanding Musical at the Drama Desk Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
- 2021: A Strange Loop in Washington D.C. The musical’s seven-week run serves as the pre-Broadway tryout.
- 2022: A Strange Loop on Broadway. The musical begins previews at the Lyceum Theatre on 14 April, ahead of a 26 April opening. A Strange Loop closes on 15 Jan. 2023.
- 2023: A Strange Loop in London. The musical plays at the Barbican for 12 weeks, from 17 June to 9 September.
Fun facts about A Strange Loop
A Strange Loop follows one man writing a musical about a man writing a musical. But this isn’t the only loop in the show’s creation. A Strange Loop takes its title from Douglas Hofstadter’s scientific concept of the same name, explaining that when a person only moves up or down, they’ll end up where they started.
The scientific idea of a “strange loop” occurs throughout the musical. As Usher ghostwrites a play, he begins to feel stuck in a hierarchical structure that won’t allow him to punch up and challenge the system.
Tyler Perry is best known for creating the Madea character, a matriarchal African-American woman. Perry's peers often criticise his work for perpetuating Black stereotypes. In A Strange Loop, Usher challenges his pre-conceived thoughts on Tyler Perry.
“Memory Song” was the first song Jackson wrote music and lyrics for. Speaking to Playbill, Jackson said: “as the show evolved, it became an anthem for Usher and “all those black gay boys I knew who chose to go on back to the Lord."
How to get A Strange Loop tickets
Don’t miss your chance to see the Tony-winning musical in London. It’s a celebratory tale of one man’s journey to true self-acceptance, packed with plenty of comedy, live music, and lots of laughter. Don’t get stuck in a loop thinking about this musical. See the show instead.
A Strange Loop tickets are available on London Theatre now.
Photo credit: A Strange Loop on Broadway (Photos courtesy of production)
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