Passing Strange Documentary Airs on PBS Jan. 13
By Adam Hetrick
PBS' "Great Performances" airs Spike Lee's documentary film of the Tony-winning Broadway musical Passing Strange Jan. 13.
New York City viewers can catch the film of the rock musical beginning at 9 PM ET on WNET, Channel 13. In the New York City area, it will re-air at 2 AM on Jan. 15.
The documentary captures the Broadway production in its final days of performance at the Belasco Theatre in July 2008. Oscar nominee Lee also offers backstage glimpses of the musical during the 135-minute film.
"This fresh musical is an unstoppable force of energy, music, and mayhem," Lee said in a statement. "The pure rock energy, soul, profound humanity, and brilliant cast are the elements that make Passing Strange unforgettable. As a filmmaker, the greatest artists on this earth to me are musicians because I feel their talents have come directly from God. So when I saw the play I was knocked out. The story, its musicianship, and the acting are a revelation. So often, when you see a great piece of theatre, it's gone unless you look at an archive of it at Lincoln Center. But this is a great piece of work, and it's going to be documented for many generations to see."
Passing Strange features a Tony Award-winning book by Stew, lyrics by Stew, and music by Stew and his longtime musical partner Heidi Rodewald of The Negro Problem.
Included in the film are original cast members Stew, Rodewald, de'Adre Aziza, Daniel Breaker, Eisa Davis, Colman Domingo, Chad Goodridge and Rebecca Naomi Jones. The onstage band includes Jon Spurney, Christian Cassan and Christian Gibbs.
With the aid of director and collaborator Annie Dorsen, Passing Strange incorporates autobiographical elements of Stew's life to tell the story of a young black bohemian who leaves behind his middle-class, church-ruled upbringing in Los Angeles to travel abroad in search of his artistic and personal identity.
The Broadway production of Passing Strange featured choreography by Karole Armitage (Hair), scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Elizabeth Hope Clancy and lighting design by Kevin Adams.
The film premiered as part of the 25th annual Sundance Film Festival last winter and was screened at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. A DVD is also now available.
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