“Hustle: The Musical” will come to THEARC in southeast D.C. for a two-night presentation next month.

The production, inspired by the novel of the same name, is written by first-time author and beauty entrepreneur Nikki Fortune.

Set in the late 1930s in the small, non-progressive town of Hustle, Va., the play is a brilliantly entwined tale of the poverty-stricken Fortune family. It passionately narrates the sacrifices women make to provide better lives for their families.

“‘Hustle’ is a story of being able to find yourself only when you leave everything you know behind,” said Fortune, the play’s executive producer. “Each character will resonate in your life, reminding you of family, friends and stories that make up the diaspora of the rich African-American experience.

“I was inspired to write the novel because I wanted to pay homage to my great aunts and grandmother,” she said. “I thought that infusing some of their stories and my imagination into a novel would make it relatable for people who had the same or similar experiences dealing with migration.”

Fortune said that adapting the novel into a musical was the idea of her high school friend Desi P. Shelton (writer/director) and her partner Jamal P. Dickerson (composer/lyricist/musical director).

“I love the story of the great migration,” Shelton said. “It is intriguing and complex, and the thought of it makes me smile at the strength of such a resilient people. It was challenging to complement the storytelling without deviating too far from the book but also giving the other collaborators of the project space for the story to come through. Fortunately, I was able to find that balance, and the finished result is an incredible theatrical production.”

“Hustle: the Musical” successfully incorporates modern musical elements without compromising the time period in which the musical takes place: the late ’30s through the late ’60s.

“The goal was to have the music reach a universal audience that included old, young, inner city, suburbs, wealthy, disadvantaged, westernized, un-westernized,” Dickerson said. “I infused many genres of music — jazz, classical, West African folk music, hip-hop and R&B — in creating the music for the show. My goal was to capture the themes in migration, which are movement, relocation, resetting, new space, new culture and, ultimately, hustle.”

The play also candidly addresses social issues, including alcoholism and substance abuse, teenage pregnancy and molestation that have plagued communities of color for generations and often were suppressed and considered “taboo” subject matter.

“Every song is original and has a message that will have you dancing and singing in your seat,” Fortune said. “This is definitely a soundtrack that will be in heavy rotation!”

The musical will run at 7 p.m. on July 2-3 at THEARC (1901 Mississippi Ave SE). For ticket information, call 202-889-5901.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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