Tag Archives: Strange Freaks

In the Heights headed to the silver screen

Lin-Manuel Miranda (center, wearing cap), who created and composed In the Heights, is set to reprise his starring role as Usnavi in the big-screen version.

The New York-themed hit Broadway musical In the Heights will follow in the cinematic footsteps of its contemporary, Passing Strange, with a film adaptation.

The Hollywood Reporter says the movie will be directed by Kenny Ortega, the director of the High School Musical movies and Michael Jackson’s This Is It. No dates have been announced.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created and composed the show about three days in the lives of neighbors in NYC’s Washington Heights section, is starring and producing the movie. Quiara Alegria Hudes, who wrote the book for the musical, is writing the script. Lin-Manuel originated the starring role of Usnavi in the off-Broadway production, and opened in the show when it transferred to Broadway.

In keeping with a trend on Broadway, a movie star — Corbin Bleu of High School Musical — is set to take over the show’s starring role starting Jan. 25.

In the Heights was nominated for 13 Tony awards in 2008, and won for best new musical. Passing Strange got seven 2008 Tony nods, and won best book of a musical.

This is just the latest parallel between theatrical classmates Heights and PS, both of which were staged off-Broadway to great acclaim in 2007 and transferred to Broadway in 2008. NYC-themed Heights won the East Coast-West Coast battle against PS, which tells the story of a black man growing up in Los Angeles. Heights, which had its first Broadway performance a week after Passing Strange transferred, remains open, while PS closed on July 20, 2008, after 186 performances during a six-month run.

Director Spike Lee, a Strange Freak (a term used to describe the most devoted Passing Strange fans), filmed the final performances of PS. His film — a relatively low-buget record of the stage show with few grand cinematic tricks — was released earlier this year. The Heights movie is being billed as an “adaptation,” which suggests a slicker, big-budget project complete with location shots. Heights struck me from Day One as an updated West Side Story, and this approach to making the film seems likely to underscore the comparison.

Stew and Heidi are working on a Passing Strange followup


Stew outside the Belasco Theatre after the final performance of Passing Strange. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)Attention, Strange Freaks! Stew and Heidi are at work on a new show.

Attention Strange Freaks: Stew and Heidi are at it again!

Stew, who won a 2008 Tony Award for the book of the hit rock musical Passing Strange, and Heidi Rodewald, who co-wrote the music, have another show in the works!

Stew, who has repeatedly and vigorously made it clear in song and speech that he’s glad he’s not on Broadway anymore, never said he wouldn’t write another play. But his grueling Broadway experience made him realized that  if he did another show, he would not write himself into it. (Passing Strange is a fictionalized version of Stew’s coming of age, in which actor Daniel Breaker portrayed Stew under Stew’s watchful eye as narrator.)

Heidi Rodewald

Heidi Rodewald

Stew talks about the work in progress in a new interview with Theatermania.com, revealing that Joanna Settle will direct the show at NYC’s Public Theater, a venue that played a pivotal role in the creation and nurturing of Passing Strange.

Stew and Settle aren’t strangers. Stew recently composed the music for a site-specific outdoor production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream that Settle is directing for Shakespeare on the Sound in Connecticut.

Here’s an excerpt from Stew’s wide-ranging interview:

I had wanted to work with the director Joanna Settle, who is also going to be directing the new work at the Public that Heidi Rodewald and I are doing. And, of course, working with Shakespeare’s words is like a great vacation for me. I like nothing more than writing music. I don’t particularly like writing lyrics or books or prose, but music is a joy for me. I’m like a kid with a basketball; it’s not really work. I love that people think it’s work, but the truth is it’s fun. Making words, that’s a job. … [The new show in the works] has nothing to do with me. I mean, I’m writing it so it has something to do with me, but the subject matter doesn’t. We’re having fun with a few historical figures, and that’s about all I can say about it at this point except that it’s music-oriented. I have not cast myself in it because I now have the brains to know I won’t be able to get anything done if I am trapped in a play.

The interview doesn’t answer the question of when the show will be staged. So it’s likely that Strange Freaks — as members of the Passing Strange family are known — will likely have to wait awhile to see it. But, as with Passing Strange, Stew will almost certain try out the songs in his upcoming concerts. Passing Strange, for instance, was developed in part from his Travelogue shows back in 2004.

(For the full interview, visit Theatermania.com. Thanks to Bill Bragin (@activecultures) for bringing it to my attention.)

Luckily,  Strange Freaks won’t have to wait for that show to get another dose of Stew and Heidi. Keep reading for all the details. Continue reading