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Alicia Keys explained how her real childhood inspired Broadway’s ‘Hell's Kitchen’

“It is a mother-daughter love story,” said Keys.

Alicia Keys is having a full circle moment.

The 16-time Grammy winner created a musical about her experiences growing up in Manhattan ... and it's nominated for 13 Tony Awards.

"Well, hello miss," Hoda Kotb greeted Keys when she stopped by Studio 1A during TODAY’s Broadway Week. "You don't step into Broadway, you jumped in with both feet."

"We've been working on 'Hell's Kitchen' for 13 years, so it's been quite the journey and we've put so much time, energy and love into it," Keys said. Learning about the show's Tony nominations was "shocking," she added.

"It's your story and it's not your story," Savannah Guthrie said. "It's not autobiographical. It's not supposed to be 'The Alicia Keys Story.' But it borrows from — and is inspired by — your own childhood, and in particular, your relationship with your mom."

"Ultimately, it is a mother-daughter love story," explained Keys. "I've been grateful that this has been my best friend throughout my life," she said, referring to her mother, Terria Joseph.

"Hell's Kitchen" Broadway Opening Night
Keys poses on the red carpet with her mom, Terria Joseph, at the "Hell's Kitchen" Broadway opening night.Jason Mendez / Getty Images

Joseph, who was born in Toledo, Ohio, moved to Manhattan "with dreams of becoming an actor" when she was 19 years old, Keys said. "She did that, and she raised me in this city. This story is inspired by the experiences of growing up in New York City."

The musical is set in Manhattan Plaza, a real building that still exists on the corner of West 43rd Street and 10th Avenue. It has legendary status for providing subsidized housing for aspiring artists.

The story centers around 17-year-old Ali (played by newcomer Maleah Joi Moon) and Jersey, the single mom who is raising her (played by Broadway veteran Shoshana Bean).

"When you saw Ali, did it take you back to your younger self?" Jenna Bush Hager asked during the fourth hour of TODAY.

"Hell's Kitchen" Broadway Opening Night
Alicia Keys and Maleah Joi Moon at the opening night of "Hell's Kitchen" on Broadway.Bruce Glikas / WireImage

"Of course it takes me back because it takes everybody who comes back," Keys said. "Not only do you remember who you were or where you were (in the '90s); you recognize yourself now, today. It's quite timeless in that way."

"Were you a musical theater kid? Would you just dream of being on Broadway and performing?" asked Jenna.

Keys said that her mother brought her to see Broadway shows when she was a kid: "I saw so many beautiful pieces because of her passion for it, and we would stand on the cheap ticket line and get all the tickets." Keys laughed, remembering seeing "Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk," "Rent" and "Miss Saigon" as a child.

"I remember seeing so many pieces that taught me to dream," Keys said.

The broadway show Hell's Kitchen performs on the TODAY plaza.
The cast of "Hell's Kitchen" performed on Rockefeller Plaza.Nathan Congleton / TODAY

"Did your mom boo-hoo when she watched it?" Hoda asked.

"Everybody boo-hooed," Keys joked. "You can't help it! It's so genuine. You can't help it."