R. Kelly's Weird, Wonderful 'Trapped In The Closet' — Broadway Bound?
Calling the lobby before last night's New York premiere of R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet an awkward scene wouldn't do it justice: PR reps ran around, security locked down our electronics and scores of media folk shuffled about as all of our abilities to tell time went dark. But then something magical happened: Eric Lane walked in. He was followed by La Donna Tittle, and suddenly everyone stood around in awe of the two actors who are better known in this strange world as Twan and Rosie the Nosy Neighbor.
It speaks to the weird magic behind R. Kelly's self-described "hip hopera" — but really, let's just say it's a soap opera that rhymes — and how a one-night stand can transform into a character study about a group of people dealing with relationships, crime and a blind ho named Francine.
And yet, the crowd that came out to see the latest installment in the Trapped franchise (airing on IFC Friday, November 23 at 9pm PT/ET) wasn't there for spectacle. The audience assembled because of the assured promise that R. Kelly would continue to deliver revelations with his cult hit about adultery, midgets and how devastating a plot point that no one could find Chuck — once a throw-away character, now a series lynchpin — could be.
Even the show itself turned into a meta-on-top-of-meta moment as Reverend Mosley hawked a "Trapped in the Closet" book ("There's the Bible...and there's this") as characters gave Real World confessionals on an unnamed talk show. But when R. Kelly came out for a post-screening Q&A with E!'s Alicia Crowley, any questions were moot as he soaked in the applause. Answering a few questions, Kelly had this to say about the writing process behind the series:
"I sit in the studio all day, thinking of stupid stuff I have," he said. Even when asked about a certain new chapter and how it chronicles the comically long trip to see a new character, "That's me trying to say in a hilarious way, this guy's way up in the building! You got to form a scene!"
Kelly is adamant in keeping the Trapped series as silly as possible, not because it needs to be but because it appears to keep him sane while working in the studio. On writing the chapters, he explained, "It varies. I'm in the studio and it takes a while. I need to rhyme in order to write."
Even if he takes inspiration from his family (Rosie and Randolph are based on his grandparents, Lucius' stutter on his stepfather) Kelly himself continues to provide fodder for his fans and the Trapped in the Closet mystique.
On top of comparing Trapped to being an alien and calling himself and his actors astronauts, he announced he is considering a Broadway run for the series on top of the next installment, which will happen in "less than five years." During the Q&A, Kelly delivered to his fans — he broke into song three times: An intro, a brief "Bump 'n' Grind" for a fan in the front row, and then an a cappella "I Believe I Can Fly" that got arms in the air and at least one lighter going in the theater to close out the night.
Now here's what makes Trapped In The Closet: Chapters 23-42 required Black Friday viewing:
- It turns out blood is thicker than the finest p-p-p-pimp juice when we learn who Pimp Lucius is related to.
- Speaking of Pimp Lucius, ever since he was almost converted by Reverend Mosley, he can hear the the voice of God. No, really.
- We still don't know how Tina got her twitch.
- Kelly takes on two new roles: relationship counselor Dr. William Percy and a bad-ass, shark toothed gangster named Beeno (aka The Goat) who has a penchant for sunflower seeds and "stallions" (i.e. ladies in bikinis).
- Sgt. James (Michael Kenneth Williams) doesn't return (except for a brief shot)! Neither, as we knew, do Big Man, Bridget (save for a still shot in Chapter 23) or the Italians.
- Perhaps in the cruelest fashion, "The Package" is finally revealed. But it is done in so in such a way that it feels like Kells took lessons in plot revelation from Damon Lindelof and it won't officially pay off till the next series.
- There's certainly nothing as insane as a midget crapping himself, but the final Chapter IS a huge stand-out from everything thing else R. Kelly previously gave us. It's so entertaining that it even gets a reprise during the credits, and had the entire crowd clapping along.
- The next arc will focus on a talk show called "Out of the Closet." We won't spoil certain relationships, but a healthy amount of the teases point to a Jerry Springer-esque "confession" series with all the characters involved.
- Seriously, Pimp Lucius? If ever a spin-off were to happen, this block of chapters gives the feeling that Kelly knows exactly who he'd focus on. In fact, if we had to wager who is the true star of this arc... let's just say we wouldn't stutter, but he definitely would.
- We're not going to say for sure, but there is a clear question asked at the beginning of Chapter 23 that won't be resolved this time (SPOILER): "Where's Chuck?"
READ MORE ON R. KELLY'S TRAPPED IN THE CLOSET:
John Lichman has written for The Playlist, Washington City Paper and does a fine Armond White impression. He tweets here.