Thursday, April 24, 2008
REFRESHING is the word that keeps coming to mind when I think of Passing Strange, the new Broadway musical I saw this week. This production was originally developed at The Public Theater. It's a collaboration of Stew: the Narrator, book, lyrics and co-composer, Heidi Rodewald: co-composer, bass, vocals and Annie Dorsen: director. I had heard about this play during it's inception as Bill Bragin, who at the time was Joe's Pub's beating heart, was also involved. Because of his persistence in getting the word out, I bought tickets. Passing Strange is a powerhouse of a performance. The four piece band act as a guardian surrounding the actors on stage. I use the term actors loosely as their performance goes way beyond just acting. They dance, sing, gyrate, jump, pontificate-it's all there. It was the Broadway debut for Rebecca Naomi Jones. She's amazing. Also outstanding were Daniel Breaker as the young Stew and De'Adre Aziza. The music is so finely integrated with the show that you don't realize the musicians have been playing for about 90% of the time.
Stew discovered the phrase "Passing Strange" while reading a comic book version of Othello. It has come to mean stranger than strange. Strange can be good. Great show, great energy, refreshing !