The show's popularity has been bolstered by protests.
It takes a lot of audacity to claim someone else culture as your own. It takes a higher dose to capitalize on it. We enter a dangerous zone when this level of audacity meets entitlement. Such is the current situation with SLĀV, a musical based on African American slave songs. The show is featured as part of the Montreal's International Jazz Festival, the largest festival of its kind having hosted artists across genres such as Snoop Dogg, Anderson .Paak. SLĀV is the festival's most popular ticketed event, having sold out most of its first week's run. This popularity might have been helped along by the negative attention it has garnered. Parts of the Montreal community have called out the show as being culturally appropriative. Now, this frustration is spreading to the United States as the production is meant to hit a few American cities.
SLĀV is originally the brainchild of Betty Bonifassi, the musicals' lead singer, who brought 200 pages worth of research to Robert Lepage, a notable producer linked to Cirque Du Soleil. Lepage synthesized the documents into one storyline that follows a black slave through her journey of discovery. Despite its being 5 years in the making with an enormous amount of work spilled into it, SLĀV suffers from a flagrant oversight as it casts only two tokenized black actors in a narrative that employs black experiences and black culture as its foundation.
The past handful of shows have been canceled due to Bonifassi's inability to perform following an injury. She is currently healing from a broken ankle, taking the "break a leg" saying to new heights. The ancestors are watching.