Breaker, who portrays Youth in the semi-autobiographical musical penned by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, became involved with the production serendipitously. While performing in another production at the Sundance Theatre Lab, the creators of Passing Strange asked Breaker to read the script of their aborning musical. "Never in my wildest dreams when I was reading that script in the mountains of Utah did I think that we would be here," Breaker recalls of his first encounter with the Tony-nominated Best Musical.
The actor had never heard of Passing Strange or its creator Stew, but upon his first reading Breaker immediately fell in love with the work. Like Stew, Breaker also spent his formative years in Europe and finds that the ambiguity of his role allows Passing Strange to reach a broad range of audiences.
The musical, which delivers a heartfelt story propelled by the energy of a rock concert, is "physically, emotionally, mentally damaging and challenging," admits Breaker. "What helps is the audience. Even if they don't understand at the beginning, they're with us by the end. And that really keeps us alive."
Audiences and critics alike are embracing the musical that made its world premiere at Berkeley Rep, bowed Off-Broadway at the Public Theater and ultimately made the transfer uptown to Broadway's Belasco in February. The Broadway production was recently nominated for seven Tony nominations, including Best Musical and Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Breaker. "It's such an honor, and it's great that a show like this made it without recasting and without any major edits," Breaker says. "It was really great to know that we survived and that we're here on Broadway."
Passing Strange is unlike any of its fellow nominated musicals, and Breaker takes note of the varied productions that the 2008 season is offering Broadway audiences, commenting, "I think that Broadway wants us here. I think audiences are looking for a truly diverse Broadway year.
"I think what's great," Breaker adds, "is that shows like Passing Strange and In the Heights are paired with shows like Gypsy and South Pacific and Sunday in the Park With George and A Catered Affair — I think that's the way to survive and to get people coming back to theatre."