Matthew Weaver recalled growing up in New York and making sure to watch Soul Train every Saturday morning, mesmerized by the dance, fashion and music.
Stage and film producer Weaver has acquired the theatrical stage rights to the TV show and said he’s hoping to turn Soul Train into a Broadway show. Weaver is behind the hit Broadway show, Rock of Ages.
“I’m nervous and I’m humbled and I’m excited,” said Weaver, who heads the production company MediaWeaver Entertainment. “I do think we’re the right people to do it because I think it’s got to have that spirit of Rock of Ages, which is part old-fashioned musical but also part party.”
Everybody knew it was time to dance and sing when the signature animated Soul Train chugged across the TV screen. The show provided a national, weekly showcase for R&B artists, black culture and fashion, and gave advertisers an entree to the black consumer market. It later had to compete with video shows on BET that broadcast black artists and eventually MTV and VH-1.
The TV show featured such acts as James Brown, Al Green, Ike and Tina Turner, Hall & Oates, Donna Summer, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Whitney Houston, David Bowie, Prince, Run D.M.C. and Destiny’s Child during its 35-year run. Moves that Soul Train dancers developed spread nationwide.
Don Cornelius started the show in 1970 in Chicago and served as its host until 1993. It aired in syndication from 1971 until 2006 and spun off an awards show that is still aired. Cornelius killed himself in 2012.
Weaver plans to next hire a writer and get music rights. His only timeframe for the stage is “when the story’s right.”
With 35 years of music on Soul Train, Weaver has plenty of song possibilities, depending on what the final story is. But he’s hopeful he can build a powerful score.
“To me, that’s the heart of Soul Train – a great story and great characters. The music will be great, the fashion will be great, the ambiance, the vibe. But if you don’t have a good story, none of that means anything,” said Weaver.
AP Drama Writer Mark Kennedy contributed to this report.