"And you can bet your last money, it's all gonna be a stone gas, honey," said Soul Train creator and host Don Cornelius in one of his signature sign-offs to his Saturday broadcasts. That 60s lingo and Cornelius's swagger helped usher a local dance program in Chicago into national syndication by 1972, syndication that would go on to span four decades — and that entire four-decade story is being told in a new musical that had its world premiere at A.C.T.'s Toni Rembe Theater last night.

Structurally, Hippest Trip: The Soul Train Musical is a pop-centric jukebox musical in the vein of Ain't Too Proud, the 2019 Tony Award nominee about The Temptations that was also written by the same book writer, Dominique Morisseau. But at its heart, this is a dance show that takes us on a high-energy, utterly exuberant journey through the dance styles of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, thanks in no small part to some unbelievable choreography by Camille A. Brown.

This original musical, which comes with the blessing of Don Cornelius's son and producing successor on Soul Train Tony Cornelius, feels authentic and celebratory on many levels. It features a primarily Black cast telling the story of American TV's first Black-produced, Black-sponsored national TV program, which itself had an outsize impact on American culture for decades. And it's a sincerely nostalgic celebration of a joyous artifact from what feels like a very distant moment in the culture, with dancing and several songs guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes.

"In a time of civil unrest, an unwanted war and a yawning generation gap, Soul Train provided respite and sheer entertainment," writes Rolling Stone's Ben Fong-Torres in a program note, noting that he and his wife Dianne were "addicted" to the show, watching it every Saturday morning from San Francisco in the early 1970s. The sheer entertainment, the highly recognizable pop and soul soundtrack, and the palpable joy coming off every bead of sweat of every bell-bottom-clad dancer in the opening numbers of Hippest Trip, all but guarantee this will be a hit on Broadway, where it is headed following the conclusion of this run in SF — which is currently set to close October 8.

Photo: Kevin Berne & Alessandra Mello

The lavish and electric set design by Jason Sherwood, the Emmy-winning designer of the 2020 Oscars set, is certainly Broadway-caliber. Its swooping swirls of 70s psychedelia literally burst out of the TV-set proscenium toward the ceiling like huge puffs of pot smoke, and they double as video screens projecting original news footage, Soul Train footage, and news clippings throughout. At moments, the projection design by Aaron Rhyne brilliantly juxtaposes archival footage with what's happening on stage — for instance, showing the real Gladys Knight appearing on an early Soul Train episode, only to have an actress as Gladys Knight appear on stage and on screen.

I haven't even gotten to the singing, which itself is top-notch — and finding this many wildly talented dancers who can also sing to the rafters is a feat in and of itself. As Cornelius, Quentin Earl Darrington stuns at multiple moments — not the least of which is a duet with son Tony (Sidney Dupont) on "Ooh Child" in the second act. And his acting chops help carry the show and do justice to Cornelius's complicated legacy.

Rising superstar Amber Iman, whom Bay Area audiences saw last fall in Goddess at Berkeley Rep (which itself is Broadway-bound), plays a supporting role here as Cornelius's longtime talent coordinator Pam Brown. Iman has a once-in-a-generation great voice that only gets to shine in a few brief verses, until she takes the stage for one phenomenal rendition of "Get Here" (originally sung by Oleta Adams) that will be the show's so-called 11-o'clock number.

Amber Iman as Pam Brown and Quentin Earl Darrington as Don Cornelius in 'Hippest Trip: The Soul Train Musical'. Photo: Kevin Berne & Alessandra Mello

Angela Birchett also does some terrific singing, but is relegated mostly to the wings and to brief interludes as Cornelius's long-suffering first wife Delores.

The ensemble does all of the heavy lifting in moving this show along and getting the audience going. I don't know if it will happen every night, but their holy-god showstopping routine on Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative" actually stopped the show Wednesday and led to its own 60-second standing ovation.

The show is long and complicated in the way of biographic jukebox fare — and some editing, particularly toward the disjointed end of Act One, feels likely before it hits Broadway. It's a musical in which 80s/90s stars Jody Watley (Kayla Davion) and Rosie Perez (Mayte Natalio) — both dancers on Soul Train before they hit it big — are both characters, and in which James Brown makes an especially notable cameo. Director Kamilah Forbes's talents are clear in orchestrating these many, variable beats in the show and keeping the pace very brisk, and the mood mostly light.

Kayla Davion as Jody Watley. Photo: Kevin Berne & Alessandra Mello

Morisseau does admirable work painting Cornelius as both icon and stubborn egotist, a man who had more love for his legacy than for his family and who profited off the backs of young, unpaid dancers for years. He was also the creator of a cultural phenomenon who then had to watch and accept as the culture moved on to trends he couldn't understand — he hated disco and hip hop, but he really hated new jack swing.

If there's any major complaint that you'll likely have, it's that there are too many great, abbreviated song snippets packed in — similarly as they were in Ain't Too Proud. And whether it's for royalty reasons or not, a few more deserve to get their full-throated, multi-versed treatment.

The show only runs another four weeks at A.C.T., barring any extensions (the theater doesn't have anything else on the schedule until A Christmas Carol in December). And as Don Cornelius would say, you can bet your last money that it's going on to some kind of glory and accolades in New York — at which point you'll regret not seeing it at this very energetic, early stage. Also, you should see Amber Iman before she inevitably moves on to her next show.

'Hippest Trip: The Soul Train Musical' runs through October 8 (or later?). Find tickets here.