Can a songbook show work for an audience that doesn't know the songbook?
The first thing people are likely to notice when they walk into the Palace Theatre on Broadway, where the new Tupac Shakur musical Holler If Ya Hear Me has just opened, is a lot of empty seats. Most of the orchestra section has been cleared out, and a new tier of stadium-style seating erected just above it, connecting with the mezzanine to make a smaller, more intimate theater space. But what about those unused seats? A refuge, I wondered, for the old-fogy theatergoers who might wander in by mistake and get driven out by the rough language, the rap music, the hard-edged ghetto ambience, the N-word?