“We’re not trying to replicate or impersonate him,” TCG Entertainment CEO and president Stephen Cook says. “We’re trying to celebrate his music and create something that honors him.”
Cook has been traveling the country to promote his company’s latest production: 4U: A Symphonic Celebration of Prince. The show has made stops at venues such as the Chicago Theatre and Jackson Hall in Nashville. It'll hit the Broward Center for the Performing Arts this Thursday, October 4.
The seeds of 4U were planted after Cook began a working relationship with Live Nation Urban president Sean Gee. As luck would have it, Gee was a longtime friend of music-industry mogul Troy Carter, who had just begun working with the Prince Estate.
“That’s how we got the meeting,” Cook says. “It sort of went from there."
Cook attributes the securing of the Prince Estate’s purple seal of approval to his creative team, which includes Roots drummer and noted Prince fan Questlove.
“My knowledge of the catalogue is dwarfed by Questlove’s,” Cook says. “I think there’s a lot of trust in him to do the right thing.”
Questlove’s role in 4U included selecting which of Prince’s songs would make it to the final show. Because of the sheer size of Prince’s discography — 39 studio albums over the course of 38 years — it was no small feat.
Do you play only hit after hit — "Little Red Corvette" before "1999"? Do you acknowledge the provocative but not-so-family-friendly singles such as "Sister" or "Do Me, Baby"? Does everyone like the Batman soundtrack?
“What we’ve tried to do is look at it from an audience point of view,” Cook says. “Prince has two different types of fans: the casual fans and the die-hard fans that know all of his songs. Questlove tried to do the songs they [all] liked.”
In addition to giving the 4U team free rein with the artist's catalogue, the Prince Estate granted access to videos, still photographs, and spoken-word poetry. The leeway allowed organizers to give the orchestral show a way to tug at fans' heartstrings.
“It’s definitely got a very emotional feel to it in terms of the visuals,” Cook says. “There’s a lot of emotion at the end when we do 'Purple Rain.'”
Cook describes seeing crowds of tearful faces once the show is over and the house lights go on. He believes it gives fans an opportunity to properly say farewell to the artist they have known for decades. Cook certainly thinks it's something Prince’s fans need.
“We’re getting a lot of thank-yous,” he says. “It’s given them a chance to celebrate him and say goodbye to him... and that’s the biggest compliment we get.”
4U: A Symphonic Celebration of Prince. Thursday, October 4, at the Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale; browardcenter.org. Tickets cost $35 to $75 via ticketmaster.com.