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“Hell’s Kitchen” reviewed

Moving on up from the Public Theatre, where it ran in the fall, Hell’s Kitchen is Alicia Keys’ semi-autobiographical musical about growing up in New York in the 1990s. Manhattan Plaza is the long-time home of artists of all stripes, and it’s where our heroine, Ali, an alter ego for Keys (Maleah Joi Moon) chafes under the iron fist of mom Jersey (Shoshana Bean), a onetime chorine who wants Ali safe indoors. Natch, that’s a call for the girl to break free. She develops an attachment to a jack-of-all-trades street drummer named Knuck (Chris Lee), prompting a huge to-do at home. But aside from a quick run in with the cops as act one is ending, that’s it for the Perils of Ali.

While lot on plot, the show is big on sound, thanks to its propulsive orchestrations. And also thanks to Kecia Lewis, as older MP resident Miss Liza Jane, who introduces Ali to the power of music and introduces the petty teen to a new instrument to channel her range. Moon and Lewis are such warm, vital presences that every encounter becomes a high point. When much of this show’s book fails to satisfy, their partnership lifts this show to a higher level.