Contact: Kate Twilley, [email protected]
Most Recent: Eastbound
From Hamilton to the upcoming Spirited starring Ryan Reynolds, Will Farrell and Octavia Spencer, writer and composer Khiyon Hursey, whose love for musical theater began when he first saw the NBC television series Smash, works on projects that allow him to channel his love for musicals and popular music. His goal is to bring musical theater into the contemporary world of popular music, which means more musicals need to tell stories that are relevant to younger generations, and embrace modern music.
“I think it’s important for any art form to continue to expand, grow, transform and challenge itself for it to continue to reach people. Art dies without transformation, especially radical transformation,” he says. “I don’t think my generation has been properly portrayed onstage, and that means we have to be creating musicals with contemporary styles like hip-hop and pop music that are really driving culture right now. That’s what can really push musical theater forward.”
Hursey’s credits including working with the original cast of Hamilton, contributing to the development of the production’s iconic score. Just three months out of college at the time, Hursey refers to the project as his grad school experience and a life-changing opportunity to watch talented artists and performers at the top of their game, creating a hit show that has shaped contemporary musical theater.
“The best advice I ever received is you have the talent to do the work, so do the work. It’s simple advice, but an encouragement and reminder that success is only achieved through work and really hard work at that,” he says. “Honing your own, original voice is really important. Study the greats—Sondheim, Rodgers & Hammerstein—but also the more modern creators like Lin-Manuel Miranda. Understanding where musical theater began, where it’s going and identifying where you fit in that lexicon is really important. And just write songs, so you can learn how to write songs and how to get better.”
Hursey is currently co-writing a movie musical, Love in America, produced by Issa Rae, and has an upcoming musical production, Eastbound, showing in June.