PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Passing Strange and Romeo and Juliet Co-Composer Heidi Rodewald

By Matthew Blank
July 17, 2012

Heidi Rodewald, a Tony nominee for Passing Strange, collaborated with Stew to compose music for Shakespeare on the Sound's new production of Romeo and Juliet. She fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.



Passing Strange won a Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical, the 2008 Obie Award for Best New American Theater Piece and Best Ensemble and was made into a film by Spike Lee.

Rodewald composed music for Karen Kandel's Portraits: Night and Day and The Five Lesbian Brothers' Brides of the Moon and co-composed with Stew music for Shakespeare on the Sound's Othello and Much Ado About Nothing.

She joined the band The Negro Problem in 1997 and since then has worked alongside Stew, performing, producing, arranging, and composing. She is currently working on a new musical, The Good Swimmer, with librettist Donna DiNovelli. She is the co-composer of the new musical The Total Bent by Stew, seen in workshop performances February 2012 at the Public Theater.





Full given name: Heidi Rodewald
Where you were born/where you were raised: Born in Pomona then moved to Brea... Southern California girl.
What your parents did/do for a living: My father is a chemist and an expert in the yard- "Mr. Green Thumb."

My talented mom sings opera, acts in community theatre and the civic light opera and writes church musicals. I was brought up in a very musical family. During my childhood, my mother would be driving my sisters and I into the city to see the opening of Sound of Music, or having us all watch an old musical on TV, or flying me out to NYC to see Madame Butterfly with her.

Everybody acts, except me. My grandfather acted also. I've seen Fiddler on the Roof five million times.

Siblings: Two of my sisters sing and perform regularly. They both have these amazing Karen Carpenter voices. I'm jealous.
Special skills: Working with Stew!
Something you're REALLY bad at: Letting other people drive me around. I'm the driver.
First Broadway show you ever saw: I grew up in L.A., but my mom took me out of school to see A Chorus Line at the Shubert Theater. I believe it was the original cast.
If you could go back in time and catch any Broadway show, what would it be? West Side Story
Some favorite musicals: Cabaret, The Fantasticks, Flower Drum Song
The one performance — attended — that you will never forget: Performance? Well that would be Mink DeVille at the Roxy in L.A. Willy DeVille walked out on stage and lit up a cigarette. That's all he had to do for me.
Your personal musical idols: Judy Garland and Johnny Rotten
Most played song on your iPod: Right now it's "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" sung by Rosemary Clooney. One of the greatest songs of all time.
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: The Beatles' "I Want to Hold your Hand." I'm lucky and old enough to have seen them on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
Must-see TV show(s): "Downton Abbey." My mother won't talk to me until I catch up with all the episodes.
Last good movie you saw: Falling very far behind in current movies, but I recently went on Netflix to watch "Chinatown" again.
Some films you consider classics: Wow.. where to start?

"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
"Spellbound, Rosemary's Baby, Citizen Kane, M, Meet me in St Louis, The King of Comedy"
"The Shop Around the Corner"

I watched a lot of late night TV growing up. Before infomercials there were these really obscure great films on TV when no one was paying attention.

Performer you would drop everything to go see: Liza
Singers you would most like to collaborate with: David Driver, Chivas Michael and Marilyn McCoo
What drew you to this project? Nothing feels better than writing a song with Shakespeare. He's full of hooks.
What are some of the musical influences or styles that you draw from for this Romeo and Juliet? I don't write anything different than I would for a rock show that Stew and I would be doing at Joe's Pub.
What is particularly unique about this adaptation of such a well-known classic? Director Joanna Settle's work always makes you think about what the play has to do with your own life. Even with the most contemporary plays I watch I feel like I'm watching something that has nothing to do with me. She brings Shakespeare home and sits him out on the patio.
You've worked on several scores with this company and director. What do you enjoy most about working with Joanna Settle and Shakespeare on the Sound? Joanna introduced Stew and I to Shakespeare, so the two of them are kind of inseparable for us. She really makes it all feel personal, urgent and real. I love the cast she assembles. And how can you not love eating a lobster roll by the water while watching a Shakespeare play?
Any upcoming projects you can talk about: Stew, Joanna and I are continuing work on our musical The Total Bent, in development at The Public Theater.

And I'm developing a musical with the writer Donna Di Novelli called The Good Swimmer. It's about a family of lifeguards in 1963 and uses found text in its lyrics. Stew is doing some arranging work on it.

Something about you that surprises people: That I'm a bigger bitch than Stew!

Not true at all... just thought that was really funny.

Career you would want if not a writer/performer: Making films
Three things you can't live without: 1. Friends and family
2. The little time I get to spend away from Stew
3. A slightly dirty martini
"I'll never understand why…" ...anyone would ask me why I love living in NYC.
Words of advice for aspiring artists: If everybody loves you, you're probably not doing it right.