From middle-class Los Angeles to sexually adventurous Amsterdam to politically subversive Berlin and back again, PASSING STRANGE takes musical theatre on a whole new trip. From singer-songwriter-performance artist Stew and his collaborator Heidi Rodewald comes a daring new rock musical that will take you on a journey across boundaries of place, identity and theatrical convention. Stew, a popular performer at Joe's Pub, was commissioned by The Public Theater in New York to develop this heartfelt and hilarious story of a young bohemian who charts a course for “the real” through sex, drugs and rock and roll. Loaded with soulful lyrics and overflowing with passion, the show takes off from middle-class America on a worldwide quest for personal and artistic authenticity.
Well-known St. Louis singer and entertainer Charles Glenn (King Herod in New Line Theatre's Jesus Christ Superstar in 2006) will star as the Narrator in New Line's premiere of this amazing rock musical. The cast also includes Keith Parker (the Youth), Talichia Noah (Mother), Jeanitta Perkins (Sherry/Renata/Desi), Andrea Purnell (Edwina/Marianna/ Sudabey), John Reed II (Franklin/Joop/Mr. Venus), and Cecil Washington Jr. (Terry/Christophe/Hugo).
Charles Isherwood wrote about the show in The New York Times, "A portrait of the artist as a confused young black man emerges in vivid colors in the fresh, exuberant and bitingly funny new musical Passing Strange. The biography of a songwriter on a wayward journey of self-discovery, this bracingly inventive show introduces an exciting new voice to contemporary musical theater, a witty wordsmith, composer and performer who goes by the single name Stew. . . Part concert, with an onstage band, part book musical with a full cast, Passing Strange defies generic categories. This is wholly appropriate, since the story being told doesn’t run in any of the familiar grooves of the African-American experience in 20th-century America. And if it does trace the classic story of the artist as a self-styled outsider at odds with mainstream culture (as personified by Mom), Passing Strange sets this boilerplate arc to a quirky new rhythm." Isherwood went on, "Although it is far richer in wit, feeling and sheer personality than most of what is classified as musical theater in the neighborhood around Times Square these days, its big heart throbs to the sound of electric guitars, searing synthesizer chords, driving drums and lyrics delivered not in a clean croon but a throaty yelp... " Hilton Als wrote in The New Yorker, "Passing Strange is a brilliant work about migration – a geographical migration but also its hero’s migration beyond the tenets of 'blackness' and toward selfhood."
Passing Strange premiered in late 2006, at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in California, then moved to The Public Theatre off Broadway in 2007, and opened on Broadway in February 2008, where it ran for 165 performances. The show was nominated for seven Tony Awards, winning one for Best Book. It also won three Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Music and Lyrics. The show was also awarded the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical; the Audelco Award for Best Musical, and Obie Awarda for Best New Theatre Piece and Outstanding Ensemble.