Great Performances: Season 38, Episode 7

Passing Strange (16 Jan. 2009)

TV Episode  |   |  Biography, Drama, Music
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 411 users   Metascore: 85/100
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A young black artist leaves his Los Angeles digs and travels to Europe to find himself. A theatrical stage production of the original Broadway musical.



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Title: Passing Strange (16 Jan 2009)

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Episode credited cast:
Edwina / Marianna / Sudabey
Mr.Franklin / Joop / Mr. Venus
Rev. Jones / Terry / Christophe / Hugo
Sherry / Renata / Desi
Mom - Understudy
Stew ...


A young black artist leaves his Los Angeles digs and travels to Europe to find himself. A theatrical stage production of the original Broadway musical.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis



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Release Date:

16 January 2009 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


Normally during the song "Amsterdam" Colman Domingo as Joop remarks that the European lifestyle "makes Berkeley look like the Bible Belt" but for this special performance he replaces Berkeley with Spike Lee who directed this film. See more »

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User Reviews

neither art nor reality often achieves this level of beauty
23 August 2009 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

As a fan and five time repeat visitor to the magical experience that was "Passing Strange" on Broadway, I will reticent to see the experience moved into the world of film. The play achieved such a delicate balance of beauty, art, and reality that I was terrified that a film was going to upset the balance.

I could not have been more worried for naught.

Spike Lee's film opened Friday, and at the time of this writing it is early Sunday morning, and I have now seen the film 3 times in the sole theatre it is playing in here in NYC.

The magic of this exquisite piece of theatre encompasses brilliance in direction, acting, singing, and writing in both the script and the music and translates BEAUTIFULLY to the screen.

Spike Lee manages to lightly and expertly place his own fingerprints on an already marvelous piece without upsetting the delicate balance director Annie Dorsen achieved with the live show. He captures a subtlety in the performances in the filmed version that was evident but not as crystalline clear in the theatre from 30 feet away. Every subtle moment registers in closely framed film in a way that manages to not only capture the electricity of the performances, but the subtlety of being in very close proximity to the actors.

And the acting is nothing short of brilliant. All of the original cast is present in the film and this wonderful ensemble cast is one of the most attuned ensembles i have ever had the privilege to see. From Daniel Breaker's nuanced and wonderfully ranged performance as the everyman character "Youth" to Eisa Davis' heartbreaking performance as his mother to Stew's incredible turn as the narrator of the story of his own life, there is enough rawness and reality to turn even the hardest of hearts.

This is without even having thus far mentioned the brilliant range of performances that Colman Domingo, De'Adre Aziza, Chad Goodridge and Rebecca Davis (in no particular order) bring as no fewer than 16 different characters ranging from constricted upper-middle class California residents to free-thinking freedom experts in Amsterdam to self-tortured artists and revolutionaries in riot-torn Berlin. Singling out individual characters or performances among this delightful cast of roles and actors is impossible as there aren't any among them that don't deserve mentioning in great detail.

And the music... good lord: the music. From blues to pop, from punk to funk, this score has it ALL. The band, always present on the stage, is just as much a part of the show as the singer/actors. Band members Heidi Rodewald (who co-wrote), Christian Cassan, Christian Gibbs, and Jon Purney perform in a way that makes them almost akin to a Greek chorus, providing the instrumentation, commenting and interacting with the story as it unfolds.

This show was a very rare show indeed. An everyman's' tale of self-discovery that is relatable to anyone with any intelligence. The movie only manages to improve on an already wonderful experience.

Do yourself a favor: see this now.

As for me, I have to sleep now so I can get up and experience this film again tomorrow and see where "Passing Strange" takes me today.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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