Lin-Manuel Is Amazing, But We Really Need To Talk About the Ladies of ‘Freestyle Love Supreme’
Listen, we all know the power and talent of Lin-Manuel Miranda. He created a rap musical about a Founding Father and somehow made it one of the most iconic, successful shows on Broadway. Ever. It’s safe to say that “Hamilton” is a gift of creativity and talent, and you can’t help but feel emotional and lucky to be “in the room where it happens.”
But “Hamilton” was not an overnight sensation — Lin-Manuel said it took him seven years to write the show, and one full year to write the second song of the musical, “My Shot.” It’s fair to say that time, patience, and practice are pillars of success. But before “Hamilton” and “In the Heights,” he started rapping with his friends, and it blossomed into “Freestyle Love Supreme,” an improv musical that is completely made up, on the spot, every night.
There are different special guests every night, and each performance is different and catered to that evening’s audience. with different special guests and songs specific to the audience of the show. It’s absolutely BRILLIANT. But enough about Lin-Manuel Miranda. It’s time to talk about the ladies.
“Freestyle Love Supreme” started 15 years ago in the basement of the Drama Book Shop, and the group behind the show has been mainly comprised of men (highly talented men, but men nonetheless). Now that the show has made its way to the Booth Theatre on Broadway, two women have joined the cast and they are REP 👏 RE 👏SENTING 👏. Let me tell you — these ladies can command a room.
On microphone three is Aneesa Folds, aka Young Nees. I saw her the night before the official opening, and I knew I was in for a treat when she sang “This is microphone three,” belting like Lizzo. The show is completely made up every night, but there’s a recurring format — one of the best segments is arguably “things we dislike.” The emcee asks the audience for things they don’t like, and three performers choose their favorite suggestion and rap about it. Folds got Times Square, and the New York audience LOST IT. She perfectly captured the hell of the sketchy street Elmo, tourists walking zero miles an hour, and men trying to sell you tickets to a comedy show. The energy in the room was electrifying in the best way. If you don’t believe me, you can watch Young Nees kill it on Jimmy Fallon, rapping about…bunions. It’s magic.
The second time I saw the show, I was lucky to see Kaila Mullady (aka Kaiser Rosé) drop some killer beats. Chris Sullivan, aka Shockwave, is typically the beatboxer of the crew. I’m not sure why he couldn’t make it that night, but Mullady had no issues bringing down the house in his absence. Mullady is a two-time beatbox champion, and watching her impersonate sounds of air horns, creaking doors, heartbeats, and alarms is truly fascinating. You can’t help but stare, open-mouthed, wondering how the hell she’s able to transport you to the scenarios built by the audience and the cast with just…sounds. It’s an art form, and you don’t have to be a musician to recognize it and appreciate her talent. I saw Mullady on the street and asked her if she’s ever recorded a voicemail message for anyone. She hasn’t. (Maybe I can be the first.)
Other notable women like Anna Wintour and Phoebe Waller Bridge were in the audience the night I attended, and watching them bob their heads and clap throughout the performances was oddly therapeutic. I love to see women supporting women. And honestly, who wouldn’t support Aneesa Folds and Kaila Mullady? They are powerhouses of Broadway, in their own unique ways. Go see them shine. You won’t regret it.
I’d also like to give a shout-out to another female cast member, Ashley Pérez Flanagan—aka, Reina Fire. I haven’t had the chance to see her perform yet since she’s one of the special guests, but I’m stoked to get back to the show and watch her undoubtedly kill it.