Changemakers — Diversifying Broadway’s Investor Pool
This entertainment veteran is extending the journey for the legendary Soul Train brand. Next stop: Broadway.
“Soul Train got society to see Black people as they really are — people just being their beautiful, authentic, no-holds-barred, this-is-what-I-am and this-is-what-I-do [selves].”
Since he was a kid, Richard Gay, MBA ’95, loved watching Soul Train, the iconic TV program that brought Black music and culture to millions of viewers for nearly four decades. The show’s last episode aired in 2006, yet Gay has felt that the Soul Train has yet to reach its terminus — which is why he’s embarked on a mission to revitalize the show as a full-blown theatrical production.
As founder and CEO of 5Pack Entertainment, Gay is the lead partner and producer of Hippest Trip — The Soul Train Musical, a new stage show that first brought the magic of Soul Train to audiences in San Francisco before heading to Broadway. Reflecting on the production process, Gay says the music, writing, choreography, lighting, and staging have come together to create something “really, really special. All of a sudden, this magic happens.”
With one foot in the creative and the other in the business, Gay says making a splash is critical to ensuring Soul Train’s legacy — and he’s tapped what he calls “one of the most diverse investor pools in the history of Broadway” to make it happen. “Me and my partners feel it’s our responsibility to get the story out… and we can’t do that if it’s not commercially viable,” he says. “You get very few times in life when you have something that can have that broad of an impact. It’s an important work.”
Richard Gay: I was probably 12, my older brother was 16, and Soul Train’s on and we’re watching all these beautiful people coming down the Soul Train line and they’re dancing and it’s beautiful, and I was probably sitting there like this. No matter what your thing was, it was on Soul Train. No matter what you liked, Soul Train had it at the best and most beautiful and most fashionable and most stylish, and being able to move and dance and that being so attractive and moving and freeing and liberating. Soul Train got society to see Black people as they really are. These people just being their beautiful, authentic, no holds barreds, this is what I am and this is what I do. It gave a voice to a generation and then it gave a voice to a generation after that and then it gave a voice to the generation after that.
And I love nothing better than for Soul Train to be a historical lesson. And that’s why it’s an important work. I’m a lead partner and a lead producer on this show. Every step of my career, I’ve worked on the creative side and the business side. And what I like to do is put big, huge things together that are complex and that have lots of different dimensions, and then something really important comes out on the other end. This is the first time in Broadway history that at the creative core of a musical, there will be three Black women on it, writer, director, and choreographer. And all of a sudden we have this music and this writing and this choreography and the direction and the dancers and the actors and the lighting and the staging is crazy. And all of a sudden, this magic happens and that is really, really special.
One of the things that me and my two partners feel is it’s our responsibility to get this story out to the world, and we can’t do that if it’s not commercially viable. We can’t. So we have to make a great Broadway show, period. Soul Train was a universal brand, and what we need to do is tell that story to the universe and make it last forever. The way we change the industry, whether it’s this industry or film or the broader entertainment industry, is by winning and being successful. And we feel that responsibility and we’re here for it all day long. Bring it.
Our investor pool, if we stopped right now, would be one of the most diverse investor pools in the history of Broadway. The Black community has turned out to support this show, not only in terms of buying tickets, but in terms of writing checks. And that’s important. You got to support works, you got to support works that matter, and I’m humbled by that. I’m not humbled by that for me, I’m humbled by that, by my community turned out to support this thing that I thought was important, my partners thought was important, that we put this unbelievable team around and people rallied and that is humbling. There’s the importance of the show, the importance of the story, the importance of diversifying the community and the importance of changing the industry. And you get very few times in life when you can have something that can have that broad of an impact. And to be able to be one of the stewards of that is a gift. And that’s how we see it. It is a responsibility, it is important, but damn, it’s a gift to be able to have that and try and make something work.
My name is Richard Gay and I’m the founder and the CEO of a company called Five Pack Entertainment.
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