Passing Strange has seen various incarnations since its initial development at the Sundance Institute in 2004. From an out-of-town run in Berkeley to its Off-Broadway then Broadway premiere, the rock and soul stage musical has now made its way to the silver screen.
For any New Yorker that caught Passing Strange on Broadway there should be no doubt that this unique production, with a book and lyrics by Stew, is more than deserving of a big screen presentation. While I still hold that Passing Strange deserved to win for best musical at last year’s Tony Awards ceremony — it lost to the by-the-book show In the Heights — it will now live on thanks to director Spike Lee.
Lee documented the final performances of Passing Strange on Broadway using his filmmaker’s eye to create a documentary that could easily be pegged as a concert film. Passing Strange the Movie can best be described as a modern day The Last Waltz, full of the same innovation that Martin Scorsese brought to The Band. Fans of film, music and Broadway will all find something to love about Lee’s Passing Strange the Movie. Prepare to be moved all over again.
Passing Strange tells the story of a teenage black musician preparing to take a wild ride, from his home in South Central Los Angeles to Amsterdam and Berlin. It’s a soul-finding mission. Along the way he comes across a wildly artistic bunch of fellow youths, all searching for the “real.” Stew appears as the narrator while his fellow cast members, including Daniel Breaker in the lead, spice up this all-singing tale.
A mix of rock, soul and experimental sounds, Passing Strange is the quintessential sound of Stew — from The Negro Problem and a respectable solo career — a staple of the downtown New York music scene. Heidi Rodewald, Stew’s creative partner, cowrote the music.
The film debuted back where it all started — at Sundance — in January and is now set to return to New York City in a limited release on Friday. Passing Strange the Movie will then go nationwide On Demand starting August 26. This is a can’t miss experience. Go see Passing Strange the Movie — especially if you failed to catch it live on stage.