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FILM: Passing Strange Is Good For Your Soul September 14, 2009

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
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poster_passingstrange

Passing Strange is Good For Your Soul. (click: Original Article)

(Grade: A-)

All media is marketing. It’s easy to forget that sometimes, and media saavy people can be easiest people to fool. Sophisticates think they watch Mad Men only because it’s subtle and rich, or District 9 because it’s a commentary on the brutality of man. Sure, I say those things. But I also try to remember Mad Men boasts a cast of really hot people, and theĀ District 9 trailer has lots of things blowing up.

I was not enthused, then, when I first saw the first poster for Passing Strange, the now-cancelled Broadway musical written and created by musician Stew (and his creative partner, Heidi Rhodewald) about his journey as a teenager from South Central to Europe and back again as a man. The poster image is of Stew, with his guitar, amid the lights of the city, looking kind of sad, or, more generously, introspective. But let’s be real, he looks sad. If you’ve seen the musical, this makes sense. It’s very much about Stew and his existential crises.

I hate poor marketing. Why hide the fact that it also boasts a cast of really hot young people? Or that it looks — in terms of set design — bright and fresh? Why so serious? Not expecting these amusements, by the end of the first act, I was flabbergasted. It was the best thing I’d seen on Broadway since Rent. In fact, it was the new Rent. It would be a hit, I was sure (I saw one of the earliest shows).

Cut to now. It’s cancelled. But! Luckily there are at least a few rich black people willing to lend their names to good art about other black people that need to find larger audiences — think Oprah for The Color Purple, Oprah and Tyler Perry for Precious, and now Tyler Perry for For Colored Girls (okay it’s a short list). Spike Lee swooped in to shoot the musical and preserve it on film. Sundance picked it up and it is now showing at the IFC Center in New York and available for purchase OnDemand. (more…)

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