I’ll admit it: I’m addicted to the radio show “This American Life.” I’ve listened to almost every one of its hour-long episodes (that’s a little under 530 hours of my life); I’ve read countless books written by its contributors; I’ve watched its short-lived TV series on Showtime; and I’ve attended live events related to the show. I literally can’t get enough.
And much to my delight, the show has been getting even more satisfying in recent years—”TAL” is getting its dance on.
Back in 2012, host Ira Glass teamed up with downtown choreographer Monica Bill Barnes. She performed on a live episode of the show (which was then broadcast on air), and she choreographed one of the most touching dance-with-text works I’ve ever seen for the late author David Rakoff. (Grab a tissue before you press play.) Glass and Barnes have been collaborating ever since; the two are currently touring a stage show called Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.
Fast-forward to 2014, and “TAL” decided to try something completely new. On June 7, the radio show took to the Brooklyn Academy of Music stage to perform a live show, complete with dance, opera, musical theater and vocal performances. Spoiler alert: The musical section was AMAZING. With help from Broadway choreographer Lorin Latarro, In the Heights’ Tony winning lyricist and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda and Wicked star Lindsay Mendez, the “TAL” 2012 radio piece “21 Chump Street” came to life as a full-fledged musical theater extravaganza.
21 Chump Street: The Musical follows a Florida-based high school honors student who gets into trouble with the law after he falls for an undercover cop (posing as a kid), who was stationed at the school to catch students selling drugs. You just gotta watch it. Take a look at the beginning of the musical section below: