From Spaceland to Broadway: Stew

Passing Strange, the Broadway musical created by longtime fixture on the LA music scene Stew, received seven Tony Award nominations this morning. The show, which started Off Broadway but moved to the Big Dance in the spring, has gone on to become one of the most critically acclaimed and successful musicals of the season.

The nominations for the former leader of the Negro Problem are some of the biggies, too. Stew himself is nominated for Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical, and Passing Strange is nominated for Best Musical, Best Book and Best Original Score, among others. (The entire list of nominees can be found here.)

In her fantastic feature on Stew for LA Weekly, Judith Lewis offers a better synopsis of the play than I could:

Stew classifies Passing Strange as “autobiographical fiction,” meaning “everything in it is true,” even if it didn’t really happen that way. Like Stew, the Youth in the play grows up, leaves for New York, then Europe, where he confronts a new set of stereotypes and plays conveniently to his audience.”

Lewis then quotes Stew’s spot-on analysis of musicals, the foundation of which is probably one reason why Passing Strange has done so well.

“Rock people hate musicals, traditionally,” he says. “And rightfully so, for the most part. But we all secretly want a big rock show with some big lights and a big cool light show on that back wall. We do. We want that in real life.”

Congrats to Stew, even if his take on Los Angeles as quoted by Lewis is less than enthusiastic for his old stomping grounds: “I’ve hated it since I was 9 years old,” Stew says of his hometown. “I’ve hated it since I used to watch the Rice-A-Roni commercials and see people riding on cable cars and think, Why don’t we have those? I would see people in New York on television riding subways and say, Why don’t we have those?”

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