Stew, Passing Strange

041008stew.JPGIf you haven’t yet seen the phenomenal new Broadway show Passing Strange, you’re really missing out. There are plenty reasons why you don’t dare pass on this electrifying, decidedly un-Broadway triumph, but it’s Stew, the single-named writer, co-composer and onstage narrator of Passing Strange, who’s best equipped to sell you on it: “You wanna know the most terrifying combination of words in the English language to me? Rock Musical. Because the music featured in such so-called productions is stuff that no self-respecting rock fan would ever be caught dead listening to. Therefore, Passing Strange is the musical you can take your friend to who hates musicals.”

The exhilarating score swerves madly from punk to Gospel to soul to funk without losing coherence or a drop of brio. Fans of the show will be excited to learn that a soundtrack is forthcoming; in fact, they’ll be recording it live at the Belasco Theatre Monday afternoon and you’re invited – get on the list by subscribing to the Passing Strange newsletter. And while ticket prices for Passing Strange vary, $25 rush tickets are sold at the box office on the day of each performance.

I saw Passing Strange for the second time on Broadway just last week, and I’m already itching to see it again. Oh good, I hope you were there with a good crowd. Sometimes the crowd can be a little bit stiff.

I was wondering about that; is the audience response on Broadway different from when you presented Passing Strange at the Public Theater? I’ve got to be honest with you. The stereotype was that Broadway crowds would be stiff and downtown crowds would be wild and crazy. That hasn’t really been the case. I think audiences are kind of the same all over. It’s just that uptown people might not get some jokes that downtown people do. But in terms of the response, we would like it to be more like a black church situation, with call and response and people feeling like they’re part of the moment, not observing the moment, you know? A lot of people downtown were very observational, as well.

But, see, you know, with rock ‘n’ roll you know how you’re doing every minute. Rock ‘n’ roll is like fucking: you know if it ain’t working for the other person. Or at least hopefully you’re fucking someone who’s not faking it. With rock ‘n’ roll you know how well you’re doing because you can see if they’re looking up at you or if they’re trying to pick up some girl at the bar. But in theater, fuck. They’re just staring at you and you don’t know what’s going on sometimes because they’re not allowed to say, ‘Yeah!’

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