After tearing the house down singing 'Let It Burn' on the Tony Awards, now you can hear Joaquina Kalukango deliver the number on the cast album.
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After the recent 2022 Tony Awards, there was one name on everybody's lips (no, not Roxie) — Joaquina Kalukango.

The star of Paradise Square, who took home the Tony for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, delivered an astounding performance of her 11 o'clock number "Let It Burn" that had social media ablaze and the audience inside Radio City Hall on their feet.

Now, EW can exclusively share the official Broadway cast album recording of the song above.

"Let It Burn," the penultimate song in Paradise Square, comes as rioters burn Nelly's (Kalukango) Paradise Square Saloon to the ground. Nelly fiercely defies them, singing about how their shared love and sense of community are more important than any physical space.

Composer Jason Howland tells EW the song was in the show from its early days at Berkeley Repertory but wasn't fully formed. "It was in a similar spot in the show, but the events that preceded it were not as clearly defined, and while the song was successful, I knew that we had much farther to go with it," he says. "When we began the work on the Chicago production and I got time to work with Joaquina and really got to know her voice, I realized how much deeper and farther we could go with the song. Her instrument is so versatile and thrilling, and the power she brings as both a singer and actor to the moment opened a whole new world of possibilities for me as the composer."

Kalukango echoes this collaborative approach to the song, noting that the final jaw-dropping 20-second note came as a result of their back-and-forth as composer and performer. "I will never forget going to a small practice room with her and saying, 'I have this idea for a bridge here in the song — I played it for her and asked, 'What do you think?'" Howland remembers. "She heard it and ran with it, doing things I never imagined possible, and has turned it into an unforgettable tour de force performance every single night."

Joaquina Kalukango
Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Kalukango says she was blown away by how the audience responded to the song when she performed it at the Tonys. "The Tonys really surprised me because you're given 3 minutes and 30 seconds to perform a piece that best summarizes your show," she says. "Our show is about 2 hours and 45 minutes, so trying to fit that into a 3-minute performance is no easy task. The fact that we had 6,000 people on their feet after our performance was extremely moving."

As one might guess from listening to the song, singing "Let It Burn" for eight shows a week is no small feat. Kalukango works with her vocal coach Joan Lader weekly to maintain her stamina, and consumes a gallon of water and coconut water daily. Her routine also includes a steam before vocal warm-ups and a vocal cool-down at the end of each show. She even tries not to speak on her day off (though that's a challenge with her child).

Howland describes "Let It Burn" as the pinnacle of Paradise Square's storytelling. "Paradise Square tells an incredible story of shared community, of sacrifice, of love and respect, and takes a hard look at the possibility of what we believe America's promise could be," he reflects. "'Let It Burn' (and Joaquina's performance of it) are the culmination of that storytelling — a moment where all the pain and hurt and loss are faced head-on and challenged."

The song is so meaningful to Kalukango that she even quoted its lyrics in her Tony acceptance speech. "'Look at what we have created/We gave ourselves a voice,' was a love letter to the company of Paradise Square," she explains. "They are truly remarkable artists and seeing the literal blood sweat and tears that were shed in putting together this epic original show is nothing short of amazing!! Each day we take the stage together we know that no matter what difficulty may come our way we have and will always rise above it. And that resiliency in a company is not common. I love and respect them all deeply."

Listen to the track above for more. The release date for the full album is still to be announced.

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