BWW Reviews: Street Theatre Company's PASSING STRANGE
Street Theatre Company has yet another edgy rock musical on their hands. Opening today, Passing Strange explores life and the journey one young man takes to self-discovery. With direction by Jon Royal and musical direction by Rollie Mains, Passing Strange is a simple story, but one that will resonate with most every person in the audience.
The Narrator, played by AJ Eason, leads us on a journey with a young man known only as Youth. A boy from a middle class black family in Southern California, Youth bucks the establishment from the beginning. Played by Elvie Williams, Youth wants to do everything possible to avoid doing anything considered "normal" or "appropriate." Mother, played by Tamiko Robinson, simply wants her son to do the things deemed acceptable in their society, including attending church with her on Sunday mornings. The cast rounds out nicely with DeVon Buchanan, LaToya Gardner, Patrick James, and Lauren Jones playing the roles of Youth's peers and influencers at home and in each of his cities of travel.
Disillusioned with church (this hilarious, yet glaringly true, "Baptist Fashion Show") and with the pressure he feels to be who his community wants him to be ("Blues Revelation/Freight Train"), Youth winds up joining the church youth choir, and then abandoning that for a band formed of misfits from his former youth choir. He tried to find who he's supposed to be through music. When his bandmates can't deal with the "pressures," both real and imagined in an LSD trip, Youth continues to search for what himself by running even farther away.
Before he leaves, the pressures from those around him, and their expectations continue to grow. With everyone in his life banding together to say "Instead of trying to find yourself, why don't you try finding a job?" With that, Youth abandons his community, and his country to head to Europe. Amsterdam finds Youth in a place where he meets people who trust him, people with less expectations of him, and people who appreciate his art. When Amsterdam isn't enough, Youth continues his search for himself and his music in volatile Berlin. "May Day" introduces us to an angry and riotous Berlin and the music and choreography reflect the mood of the city and those who were part of the rebellious movement of the times.
Again Youth looks for himself through his music, and finds that in spite of all of his running away, he cannot finish the song that he started ("Youth's Unfinished Song"). Instead he discovers that finding yourself isn't always as easy as it seems and it isn't always the same for everyone. I found the show to be such an eye opener to what so many young people go through and how the choices they make and don't make are so heavily influenced by the people around them. Some seem to bow to the pressures, and others, like Youth, do everything they can to break out.
The simple set, designed by JJ Street, and lighting by Kelly Landry help pull the show together and give it the feeling of each of the places and each of the stages of Youth's journey. This show feeds off the simplicity of design, and forces the audience to pay attention to the most important parts of the show: the lyrics and the actions of the actors.
This journey of Youth and his quest to find himself through his art is well worth your time if you're looking for something different from your standard staged musical. Passing Strange plays at Street Theatre Company June 13th - 28th. You can purchase tickets on their website HERE.
Photo credit to Heavenly Perspective Photography.