PASSING STRANGE Opens 4/25 at Mixed Blood Theatre
Identity and racial politics form the foundation of PASSING STRANGE, one of the seminal musicals of our time, and Mixed Blood Theatre's production honors that epic rock legacy, with the added dimension of the intimacy and immediacy of the Alan Page Auditorium. With disparate styles that range from '60's Europop to '70's punk to '80's electronica, to gospel, soul, and funk, to musical theatre, and with a nod to James Brown, this Tony Award winner is a play within a rock concert. Eschewing preconceptions, this band's lead singer is a middle class African American Buddhist rocker ex-pat story-teller, sharing the picaresque journey of his youth via 24 songs. The play's title is inspired by a passage in Shakespeare's OTHELLO.
Created autobiographically by Stew (of Stew and the Negro Problem), PASSING STRANGE follows an emerging African American musician from his garage-band days in Los Angeles, to coffeehouses in Amsterdam where he indulges in a rock 'n' roll life, and from there to Berlin where he falls in with a group of political and aesthetic radicals. It is a portrait of an artist attempting to break free of his roots, only to discover he can't move on without a reconciliation with his past.
In the tradition of NEXT TO NORMAL (2012) and AVENUE Q (2011), Mixed Blood puts its unique spin on this critically acclaimed Broadway hit. The All-Star cast combines new faces with Mixed Blood favorites: Anthony Manough and Jamecia Bennett make their debuts as "Stew" and his mother, joining veterans Lipica Shah (The Chronicles of Kalki, Shiv), Nathan Barlow (Distracted), Eric Mayson (Ruined, Avenue Q, Next To Normal), James Grigsby (Avenue Q), Brittany Bradford (Next to Normal, Avenue Q, My Secret Language of Wishes, Neighbors), and newcomer Meghan Kreidler. Musical Director Jason Hansen has led each of these Mixed Blood musicals.
Perennial Mixed Blood favorite Thomas W. Jones II (Ivey Award for Yellowman) leads the cast as director. His directing credits at Mixed Blood include Point of Revue, Dance on Widows Row, Two Queens One Castle, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, Cut Flowers, and more. His acting credits include Topdog/Underdog, Yellowman, League of Nations, Distracted, Next to Normal, They're Coming To Make It Brighter, and Salt Fish and Bakes.
PASSING STRANGE dares in a playful way to honor those big questions that have set adolescent souls yearning for centuries: how to discover and be true to your convictions, how to live a meaningful life and still pay the bills, how to find the understanding you need without throwing away the love you're offered.
The Creative Team includes Joseph Stanley as set designer, Barry Browning as Lighting Designer, Trevor Bowen as Costume Designer, Montana Johnson as Sound Designer, and Lois Rhomberg as Prop Designer.
Artistic Director Jack Reuler: "Once upon a time the competition for live theatre was other live events - plays, concerts, sporting events, dance - but that has evolved such that we compete for share of mind and time with cell phones, tablets, laptops, and the remote. People going to a live show of any kind and having a good experience benefits all purveyors of 'things live.' By going to PASSING STRANGE, you attend a rock concert and a play happens! To me, good theatre is an event, replete with entertainment, substance, and a sensory/emotional immersion. That describes PASSING STRANGE at Mixed Blood."
Director Thomas W. Jones II: "Passing Strange is a musical seduction... the journey of an ex-pat African-American artist searching for acceptance, looking for home outside the American familiar... it is a rock fable about race, place, and passage."
Photo by Justin Knight