Maker: The “Soul Train” Musical

Producer Richard Gay says keeping a Broadway-bound musical on track is a team effort.

October 20, 2023

This show resonates with everyone. I have been associated with the Soul Train brand for over a decade and no one has ever asked, “What’s the Soul Train musical going to be about?” Instead, we frequently hear, “Oh my gosh, that hasn’t been done already?”

Editor’s Note

In this ongoing series from Stanford Business magazine we use an annotated photo to tell the story of a manufacturing business overseen by a Stanford GSB alum.

Richard Gay, MBA ’95, is a lead producer of Hippest Trip — The Soul Train Musical.

Soul Train is a tremendously important brand and story — for Black America, for music, for TV, and across the globe. Don Cornelius, as an entrepreneur, started building this empire in 1970 when he wasn’t supposed to be able to and ended up doing great things with it. Because it was a nationally ­syndicated show, everybody has a touchpoint with Soul Train and people always feel good about it.

I have a very traditional kind of business background — GSB, partner at Booz Allen, and COO role at some major television brands. People often ask me how I ended up as a producer. I find that the core principles are the same: Working with great people across the board — whether business partners, money people, creatives, or distributors — that matters the most.

“I am fortunate to work in an industry where people see things I can’t see and hear things I can’t hear.”

We have this unbelievable creative team — Dominique ­Morisseau, Camille A. Brown, Kamilah Forbes — a Black woman as writer, choreographer, and director. People have said that this is a first on an original Broadway musical. When we first heard it, we didn’t believe it. We just wanted to put together the best team for this project, and we are lucky to have these three at the helm, which makes this accidental history — and that’s the best kind of history.

I am fortunate to work in an industry where people see things I can’t see and hear things I can’t hear. I have been out raising funds for months and yesterday I got to sit in rehearsal all day and watch our amazing cast. That’s what a producer’s job is, and that’s what I love about it. No day is the same.

People are going to come and dance and jump out of their seats at this show. There are also points where there won’t be a dry eye in the house because of the relationships and the range of emotions around Don’s complicated life. We’re telling the Soul Train story, including some really serious stuff. But you’re going to have a lot of fun while you’re there, too. — Told to Dave Gilson

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