Soul Sunday with KNAGUI: Last Night a DJ Saved My Life – A Review of the Musical, The Fortress of Solitude

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For all the stereotypes that come with saying, “I live in Dallas,” there’s equal debunking… or validation, depending on your perspective.  Take for example the NCAA Men’s Final Four College Basketball Tournament held here this weekend: played at the home of (I hate to say/admit this) the most famous American Football team in the world, the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, the event along with the side shows and parties is larger than life.  The entire DFW Metroplex is buzzing.


Staying true to form, Dallas’ Arts District has become the largest in the United States… again it’s a matter of perspective (13 primary facilities spanning 68 acres of urban property), still it’s beautiful and very active.

Being an artist, I try to support the arts as often as I can, everywhere I go and especially in the city where I currently live.

Today marks the closing of a show that I had the pleasure of seeing the premier of on its premier night: The Fortress of Solitude.


The musical, conceived by Daniel Aukin and brought to life by the music of Michael Friedman is based on the twin titled novel by Jonathan Lethem.

Most of you know I HATE SPOILERS, so here are some official bits of text about the show:
“Based on the novel of the same name, The Fortress of Solitude follows two boys growing up in the working-class neighborhood of Gowanus in Brooklyn, NY. Dylan, a white kid being raised by an emotionally distant father and Mingus, a bi-racial kid being raised by his African American father who misses his former glory days, forge an unlikely bond over [music and] comic books. As they navigate the absence of their mothers, the racial divide in their neighborhood and the lack of support from their fathers, Dylan and Mingus defy odds with their loyal friendship. But, as they years go by, the boys grow into young men and their friendship begins to show signs of the strain placed on it by their families, friends and society at-large. The differences in their race and the societal implications of it manifest in where they each go to school and in which directions their lives head. When one finds himself in jail, both must face the role race plays in their lives and decide whether or not to bridge the gap that exists between them.


The phrase “Fortress of Solitude” first appeared in literature in the Doc Savage pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s. A precursor to comic books, pulp magazines (or pulps) were inexpensive fiction magazines made out of cheap wood pulp.
In the Doc Savage series, the hero built his Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic and retreated to its isolation to do scientific research and store dangerous technology and secrets.
The Fortress of Solitude next appeared in the D.C. comic book series, Superman. The Fortress’s predecessor, Superman’s “Secret Citadel,” first appeared in Superman #17 where it was said to be built into a mountainside outside of Metropolis. By the May-June 1949 issue (#58) Superman’s hideout was being referred to as the Fortress of Solitude, and took the shape of a freestanding castle in what was described as a “polar waste.” However, when the Fortress reappears in 1958 and for the first time plays an essential role in the story (The Super-Key to Fort Superman, Action Comics #241), it was once again portrayed as an underground complex in a mountainside.
Since its first introduction to the Superman story, the Fortress of Solitude has been reinvented and reinterpreted in various Superman comics. A few examples include its placement undersea and in outer space, and its reinterpretation to be the persona of Clark Kent, Superman’s secret identity.
Fortress3In Jonathan Letham’s novel and the current stage adaptation, Dylan and Mingus have been physically abandoned by their mothers and emotionally abandoned by their fathers. Inspired by the Superman comics and the discovery of a magic ring, the boys talk of flying to their own Fortress of Solitude to take refuge in.” -DTC Study Guide

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Beyond feeling I might have landed one of these roles, “my ear” twitched a bit at the weakness of a couple vocalists (my friends didn’t share my opinion).  But for what those two (Sr. & Jr.) lacked vocally, they more than made up for in their acting and stage presence.

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Kyle Beltran who played Mingus Rude was dope and the stage design was to-die-for!


Taught to see the spiritual element in everything, the waterworks opened for me during the final exchange between Dylan and Mingus.  This… acknowledgement of a preordained place Mingus had in Dylan’s life within which a reference was made to an overlooked phrase from earlier in the show sent chills through me.

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The show was a little long in the tooth; I dozed off a couple times. Still, I wanted to see it again, for the love of the show and to see what, if any, edits had been made to streamline it a bit.


This premier was a raising of the hand to be called on by Broadway the Great and I believe she will call!  Hopefully at one of my two favorite theaters: The Jacobs Theater (formally The Royale Theatre) or The Golden Theater.Cast-of-DTCs-Fortress-of-Solitude-Feb-1-2014See you “next” Sunday.

[photo credit: Anonymous, Dallas Morning News & Karen Almond]


One thought on “Soul Sunday with KNAGUI: Last Night a DJ Saved My Life – A Review of the Musical, The Fortress of Solitude

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