Sunday, August 30, 2009

Searching for The Real

Spike Lee's new joint is a filmed version of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical Passing Strange. The movie is an amalgamation of the last three performances of the show which ended in July 2008. The story is based on the life of real-life musician Stew who also narrates the tale of how as a young person--Youth--he left 1970s Los Angeles and his black middle class lifestyle to find himself as an artist by living as an ex-patriot in Amsterdam and Berlin. Much like James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, and Richard Wright who all found acceptance in Europe they could not find as black people in America, Youth is looking for something he can't quite articulate. Youth calls that something "The Real." As he travels the world for The Real, he distances himself from his mother and dabbles in sex, drugs, revolution, and rock 'n roll.

Stew's music and lyrics (written along with his collaborator Heidi Rodewald) are powerful and Daniel Breaker's performance as Youth is awesome. The other actors, who take on multiple roles and accents, are also brilliant. Although film is not like live theater, this is the next best thing. Every seat is good because you can see the actors' expressions, see all angles of the stage, and the editing makes the story move in a way that might otherwise lag in a live performance. Plus it's a great way to preserve the performance long after the curtains have closed.

Unfortunately, Passing Strange will not be showing in a theater here in Atlanta. But you can see it on IFC On Demand through your cable provider.

Play On.

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