Fricke's Picks: Strange Broadway


Before it was in workshop, off-Broadway, then on Broadway, the electric musical Passing Strange was a life story: the already rich, then brilliantly embroidered autobiography of the singer-songwriter Mark Stewart, a.k.a. Stew, who wrote and starred in the show. He rightly won a Tony this year for Best Book of a Musical — Passing Strange is his funny, unsparing dissection of growing up weird, gifted and black — but he and his co-composer, bassist Heidi Rodewald, deserved more. Recorded in April before an audience at New York's Belasco Theatre, the original cast recording (Ghostlight) arrives a little late — the Broadway production closed in July — but preserves the songs' acerbic sting and dynamic whirl of New Wave snarl ("Sole Brother"), skewered vaudeville ("The Black One") and shape-shifting soul ("Keys"). You only get the voices of the superb cast and none of the show's visual, ingenious rock-gig pow, but this album will eventually double as a movie soundtrack: Spike Lee filmed one of the final performances.

[From Issue 1059 — August 21, 2008]

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David Fricke

Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke has more than 10,000 albums in his New York apartment. His first record review for the magazine was Frank Zappa's 'Sheik Yerbouti' (RS 290).

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