A Strange Loop the Musical - SYNOPSIS
The chorus, depicted as Usher's Thoughts, calls Usher's name out repeatedly. Usher, working as an actual usher for The Lion King, informs the audience about what the show will entail. Usher wonders if and how he should write A Strange Loop to represent what it's like to "travel the world in a fat, black, queer body" and the pressures of doing so ("Intermission Song").
After work, Usher sings about how he plans "to change this show for the better" as his Thoughts interject, reminding him of his self-loathing, student loans, issues on Black pride, and his repressed sexuality. Usher wants to change himself, but his Thoughts are too disruptive ("Today"). He gets a call from his mother, who asks about "what's going on in [his] life" and reminds him of the work she and his father (both named after characters in The Lion King) went through to raise him. She then requests that Usher write a Tyler Perry-style gospel play in return ("We Wanna Know").
Hanging up, Usher sings about how he wishes he could act more like his "inner white girl" while he is held back by expectations put on Black boys ("Inner White Girl"). After the song, Usher's Thoughts criticize "Inner White Girl," the show, and advise him that the main character should have more sex appeal or that he should add elements of "slavery or police violence so that the allies in the audience have something 'intersectional' to hold on to."
Usher’s father calls, leaving a message to let him know that he was able to find Scott Rudin’s number online, and despite the fact that his father does not condone homosexuality, Usher has student loans to pay off and should leverage their common sexuality to make a connection ("Didn't Want Nothin'").
At a medical checkup, Usher's doctor inquires about Usher's sex life and preemptively prescribes him Truvada, pressuring Usher to have more sex. Usher "enters the sexual marketplace" through the use of various gay dating apps, where he is rejected for being "too black, too fat, too feminine," and for having too small of a dick. Usher rages against the ways in which the gay community is also discriminatory ("Exile In Gayville").
A stranger on a train asks about what Usher is writing. Usher explains that "A Strange Loop" is a cognitive science term about how "your ability to conceive of yourself as an 'I' is ... an illusion. But the fact that you can recognize the illusion proves it exists." The stranger introduces himself as Joshlet and the two flirt, before Joshlet explains that he's a figment of Usher's imagination. Joshlet dismisses Usher and his Thoughts ask him what his problem is. Usher sings about how "the second-wave feminist in [him] is at war with the dick-sucking Black gay man" ("Second Wave").
Usher's agent calls, informing him that Tyler Perry is seeking a ghostwriter for a gospel play. Usher sings about his low opinion of Tyler Perry’s work. In the appearance of famous Black figures such as Harriet Tubman, Carter G Woodson, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, “Twelve Years A Slave,” and Whitney Houston, his Thoughts accuse him of being a race traitor and persuade him to take the ghostwriting job for "for the money. And Mom. And Dad. And the ancestors" ("Tyler Perry Writes Real Life"). Usher sings through the process of writing the play, acting out all the characters as caricatures ("Writing a Gospel Play").
Back at his job, Usher tells a patron about how he can't continue the show without confronting his parents with his artistic self. The patron advises him to live his life without fear ("A Sympathetic Ear"). Usher's father asks him on a phone call if he has HIV like his cousin Darnell had. The rest of his family appear and the call quickly devolves. Usher's mother asks where her gospel play is.
Usher hooks up with a white man who fetishizes him, silently wondering if he should do this. During sex, Inwood Daddy calls Usher racial slurs ("Inwood Daddy"). After, Usher leaves and questions where his boundaries are ("Boundaries").
He gets a voicemail from his mother wishing him a happy birthday. She continues on to tell him how homosexuality is a sin ("Periodically"). His father calls, informing him people at their church found music of his online and didn't approve ("Didn’t Want Nothin' (reprise)").
Usher's mother and father fight about him and his homosexuality and their worry he might catch AIDS, before Usher explodes with his thoughts about how his repressed sexuality came about, including societal and environmental factors like his upbringing. Usher wants his father to like his work and to care about his complexity. His mother asks him why he hates them and why they're portrayed as they are in the show. Usher says that he writes them like that because he loves them. Usher’s mother says that if Usher actually loved them, he wouldn't have disappointed them.
The set transforms into a gospel play, with Usher as a church pastor and the Thoughts as a choir. Usher recalls visiting Darnell in the hospital, and how Darnell refused HIV medication because he thought he deserved to die for his sins. Usher preaches that he has realized "the only thing worse than dying of AIDS would be living with it and hearing the people you loved say 'I told you so.'" Usher's mother eventually stops the show ("Precious Little Dream/AIDS is God's Punishment"). She tells Usher he is loved but she still thinks that his struggle is due to his homosexuality being a sin and that they could "work this gay abomination thang out."
The Thought playing his mother asks Usher if he wants to end the show with hateful caricature versions of his parents. Usher says that he was trying to depict life as it was for him when he was seventeen but the Thought reminds him that he is twenty-six now. Usher realizes that for his perceptions of his parents to change he must change as well. He sings about childhood memories and what it was like to be "one lone, Black gay boy ...who chose to turn his back on the Lord" ("Memory Song").
With his back to the audience, Usher blanches at the thought of the show ending, wondering what will happen. He turns, facing himself, before reflecting on himself, his relationship with others, and what would happen if he were to change, before coming to the conclusion that "change is just an illusion," and what a strange loop they are in.
Read more: A Strange Loop the Musical Songs Lyrics
Synopsis to A Strange Loop the Musical
A Strange Loop the Musical Lyrics
We Wanna Know
Inner White Girl
Didn't Want Nothin'
Exile in Gayville
Tyler Perry Writes Real Life
Writing a Gospel Play
A Sympathetic Ear
Didn't Want Nothin' (Reprise)
Precious Little Dream / AIDS Is God's Punishment
A Strange Loop