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Once Upon a Rhyme
Book, Lyrics & Music by Ronvé O’Daniel
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Type of Show
Performance Type
Performing Groups
Movement Requirements
Tech Requirements
Cast Summary
5m, 4f. Ensemble of 5+
The hip hop coming-of-age musical has arrived, and it's a journey of swagger, survival, and the search for self. It's Once Upon a Rhyme.

Jaw-dropping dance breaks. An infectious score that fuses hip-hop, soul, R&B, gospel and classic Broadway. A story of a man's search for identity, acceptance from community, and a truly authentic voice. It's ballet. It's rap.

Formerly known as iLLA! A Hip Hop Musical, the New York Musical Theatre Festival "Award for Excellence" recipient has been developed at the O'Neill, Goodspeed, and TheatreWorks Silicon Valley.
Prince Harper is nerdy, charming, and an exceptional ballet dancer. Prince also has what it takes to become the next hip hop icon. In an attempt to gain a coveted record deal, he creates a gangster rapper alter-ego, loses himself, and quickly spirals out of control. Will his new alter ego lead to his demise? Or will Prince realize that his authentic self is enough? 
5m, 4f. Ensemble of 5+
Male Principals
Female Principals
Casting for ONCE UPON A RHYME should reflect the pronouns as written specifically PRINCE, DEBORAH, CHARLES, GARY, STACY, THE MC, and BIG TREY, as it reflects the spirit and representation the writers intended. Additional principal and supporting roles such as SLIM and the CYPHERS can as fittingly be portrayed as anyone: male-identifying, trans, gender fluid and/or non-binary actor/actresses. To that end, please feel free to adjust any pronouns/language accordingly to reflect actor identity. Songs available in alternative keys upon request.
Protagonist. African American man, 18-22. A gifted, classically trained high school dancer and rapper. Nerdy and charming. Rapper, singer, dancer, actor. Childish Gambino/Donald Glover meets Chance the Rapper sprinkled with some Andre 3000.
Pop tenor with strong rap skills
African American male, mid-30s. Shape shifting, mystical storyteller who narrates the action of the show. Leads the audience on the journey with a secret connection to the story. Rapper who can sing. Chuck D meets James Earl Jones blended with a little Slick Rick.
Baritone or tenor with strong rap skills
Woman, any ethnicity, 18-22. Assertive, confident, trendy, brash, influenced by hip-hop culture. R&B/pop singer and dancer, rapper. Ariana Grande meets Cardi B garnished with some Janelle Monae.
Soprano with high pop belt
African-American woman, 40s-50s. Community college African American studies professor. Strong, assertive, nurturing, no-nonsense humor. R&B singer. Aunt Vivian (the first one) meets Audra McDonald infused with some Whitney Houston.
Mezzo/soprano with a strong belt
African-American man, late 40s to early 50s. Works at an auto-factory. Good looking male who speaks his mind. Passionate, prideful, charming and stubborn. R&B singer. Poetry/rap is a plus. Charles S. Dutton meets Gerald Levert, with a splash of Teddy Pendagrass.
African American man, age 30. College dropout with aspirations of being a self-made businessman. Fun, energetic, carefree, slick, charismatic, a hustler. R&B singer and rapper. Fresh Prince meets Jason Weaver peppered with a little Kanye West...the old Kanye West.
Pop tenor with strong rap skills
Woman, any ethnicity, age 30. Gary's friend, works as a young executive for a major hip-hop record label. Responsible, charming, and professional but has swagger. Rapper who can sing. Angie Martinez meets Gabrielle Union drizzled with Vivica A Fox.
Contralto/baritone with strong rap skills
Caucasian man, age 25. Talented local gangster rapper with an incredible buzz around the industry. Tough, arrogant, lots of "street credibility" Don't get it twisted, he's no "fake thug" - he's the real deal and takes the streets very seriously. Can be rude. Rapper. Machine Gun Kelly meets Meek Mill soaked up in some Yelawolf.
Baritone/tenor with strong rap skills
Dance teacher, ensemble, lead narrators. 6-10 young, multi-ethnic, male/female identifying, non-binary rappers and dancers to play Prince's friends, neighborhood residents, Hip Hop Fans and various other shape-shifting characters. Singers, actors, rappers, dancers.
Each license comes with the standard performance tracks (piano/bass/drums) and a piano/vocal score for rehearsal.
Premium supplemental performance tracks feature all the drums, bass, keyboards, horns, strings and sound effects. 
Full stems and click tracks are available as a supplemental material for complete vamp control.
Alto/tenor/soprano/rap rehearsal reference tracks available as a supplemental material.
Orchestra Size:
Performance Tracks