Photo Flash: Tony-Winning Musical PASSING STRANGE Travels to The Wilma Theater
Music takes center stage as a charismatic Narrator tells the tale of the Youth, a rebellious young African-American man who journeys to Europe in search of something "real." He travels from gospel-soaked South Central LA through psychedelic Amsterdam to militant Berlin and back. This incendiary musical is a rowdy salve for turbulent times: a young punk screaming in defiance of the void, with an electric onstage band.
Passing Strange begins on Wednesday, January 10th, 2018, and opens on Wednesday, January 17th, 2018.
Passing Strange greets its audience with a larger-than-life rock band with a deep base line and sharp guitar solos ("Prologue/We Might Play All Night"). The singer introduces himself as the Narrator of the show and invites his audience to listen to a tale of Youth, a young man who breaks free from his hometown after a spiritual awakening ("Church Blues Revelation/Freight Train") to journey to Europe and find the "real." Throughout his journey, Youth explores the indulgences of a bohemian lifestyle with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll ("Amsterdam"); encounters brutal questions of his own sense of self ("Passing Phase"); and grows into a man who finds that love outshines the "real" ("Love Like That").
After last season's sellout run of Stew and Heidi Rodewald's Notes of a Native Song, the Wilma brings a revival of their Passing Strange to the theater's stage ten years after its original run on Broadway. "I love Stew's and Heidi's music and this story of an artist for whom art becomes his religion, much to the detriment of the relationships with people who love him," says Wilma Artistic Director Blanka Zizka. Tea Alagi? returns to the Wilma to direct Passing Strange after last season's Constellations. "There is a battle between the love for art and the love for family in this piece, especially within the relationship of the Youth and his mother," describes Alagi?. "It's a terrific musical and a beautiful piece of writing. With the cast we have it will have a whole new life."
Passing Strange's cast of seven is a mixture of Wilma HotHouse Company members and actors making their debut at The Wilma Theater. Kris Coleman steps into the shoes of the Narrator, a role originated by Stew in the 2008 production. Coleman made his Broadway debut in Jersey Boys as Hal Miller and has performed in such shows as Once on This Island, Sister Act, and Smokey Joe's Café. Jamar Williams stars alongside Coleman as the Youth. Williams appeared most recently in the Off-Broadway production of The Hairy Ape (alongside Bobby Canavale) and has performed at Actors Theatre of Louisville, American Repertory Theatre, and Signature Theatre.
Kimberly S. Fairbanks plays the Youth's mother, whose notable Philadelphia roles include Millie Wilkinson in Because of Winn Dixie at Delaware Theatre Company and Camila in In the Heights at the Walnut Street Theatre.
The cast also includes three HotHouse Company members Taysha Marie Canales (Sheri/Renata/Desi) and Lindsay Smiling (Mr. Franklin/Joop/Hugo), who both performed in the Wilma's recent production of Blood Wedding, as well as Anthony Martinez-Briggs (Terry/Christophe/Venus) who made a splash with his local band ILL DOOTS in the Wilma's 2016 production of An Octoroon. Newcomer and Temple graduate student Savannah Jackson rounds out the cast as Edwina/Marianna/Sudabey.
The cast is joined by an onstage rock band, led by music director Amanda Morton. Having worked at Arden Theatre Company (A Year with Frog and Toad, Passion, Parade) and the Classic Stage Company (A Doctor in Spite of Himself), this will be Morton's first time working at the Wilma, taking charge of a four-piece rock band including guitarist Jake Hager, drummer Ben Diamond, and bassist Ellyn Heald. Prior to rehearsals, Morton (who will be the pianist) and the band participated in workshops with Stew to learn the songs of the musical and create their onstage band dynamic.
The Honorary Producers for Passing Strange are Tobey and Mark Dichter.
Photos by Bill Hebert
The company of Passing Strange, directed by Tea AlagiÄ‡ at The Wilma Theater. Photo by Bill Hebert.
The company of Passing Strange, Passing Strange, directed by Tea AlagiÄ‡ at The Wilma Theater. Photo by Bill Hebert.