Passing Strange
Preview the Rock Musical

The show universally applauded for its originality, deep emotional resonance, and powerful, high-octane score, makes its broadcast debut on THIRTEEN’S Great Performances on PBS. Passing Strange, the Spike Lee-directed film featuring the award-winning Broadway rock musical of the same title, will air in primetime on Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 9 p.m. EST (check local listings).

Watch a preview:

Passing Strange is the semi-autobiographical story of a young black man who leaves behind his middle-class, church-ruled upbringing in mid-1970s Los Angeles to travel to Europe in search of his artistic and personal identity, or what he calls “the real.” There he finds he can exploit a “South Central” persona, playing the cool, black expatriate-musician who speaks for his people. Picaresque misadventures with sex, drugs, politics and art find him in a far-out Amsterdam and a hyper-militant Berlin. But in the end, he discovers that cultural complexity—and hypocrisy—are not limited to middle-class African American life, and that while to him art may be more real than life, only love is truly more than real. Co-starring with Stew as ‘Narrator’ is an extraordinarily talented ensemble cast, featuring DeAdre Aziza, Eisa Davis, Colman Domingo, Chad Goodridge, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Daniel Breaker as the story’s central character, ‘Youth.’

The Broadway show won a 2008 Tony Award for “Best Book of a Musical,” and in total, it received seven Tony nominations, including “Best Musical.” The show also won a Drama Desk Award, a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and two Obie Awards. The highly-acclaimed score does not stand apart from the action as in some rock musicals, but advances the narrative through a sophisticated libretto. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times raves: “Passing Strange is bursting at the seams with melodic songs, and it features a handful of theatrical performances to treasure. Call it a rock concert with a story to tell, trimmed with a lot of great jokes. Or call it a sprawling work of performance art, complete with angry rants and scary drag queens. Call it whatever you want, really. I’ll just call it wonderful.”

Passing Strange was originally created and workshopped at the Sundance Theatre Lab in Utah in 2004 by Stew, his long-time musical partner Heidi Rodewald, and Annie Dorsen, who collaborated on the creation of the show and directed it as well. It was performed at Berkeley Rep in California before coming to New York City’s Public Theater in 2007. The production then moved to Broadway and opened to critical acclaim in February 2008 at the Belasco Theatre. Spike Lee, who had seen the show, was contacted by producer Steve Klein, who was interested in making a film of the stage production. “When I saw the play I was knocked out,” says Lee. “The story, its musicianship and the acting was a revelation. Unlike recent translations of theater onto the big screen, the film doesn’t alter any of the cast, staging or production. This is a hybrid.”

Lee, working with cinematographer Matthew Libatique (“Miracle at St. Anna,” “Iron Man,” “Inside Man”) shot two performances of the Broadway show before its close, including the final performance. Lee then filmed the production without the audience, enabling dynamic close-ups, dolly shots, crane shots and other cinematic coverage. Lee’s long-time editor, Barry Brown, edited the final film.

A 40 Acres & a Mule Filmworks and Apple Core Holdings production in association with Thirteen for WNET.ORG, Passing Strange was produced by Steve Klein, with Klein, Kenneth Greif, Laurence Horn, and William Kohane serving as executive producers.

Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, Vivian Milstein, LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers and PBS. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.

  • Geoff

    Awesome! I already pre-ordered the DVD, but it’s great to see this getting more exposure. It’s a tremendous show… a true work of art in many ways.

  • Bob McGinnis

    Saw passing strange on pay per view and was blown away!!!.Will be headed for N.Y.C. next month to see your performance ,and to meet both you Heidi and the cast . P.S. Also to see Mike McGinnis my son .

  • Raina

    Yes! Finally! I’ve wanted to see Passing Strange for so long, but I live in the midwest, so that wasn’t going to happen. I’m so freaking happy PBS is showing it! I’m going to tell everyone to watch. People need to hear this amazing music!

  • Ryan Bloomquist

    Having seen countless Broadway shows, Passing Strange still remains my favorite ever! I feel so blessed that I was at that final show and am so happy that it is documented! Thank you PBS!

  • Mia

    Went to see this 4 times when it was on Broadway, including the shows that were taped. This is truly one of the more innovative shows that have been on Broadway within the past decade. Thank you for showing it PBS!

  • Richard Allen

    Wow, what a gift to us all to see this slice of life. Thanks to Spike Lee and PBS

  • Eileen Larson

    What a powerful show! Great music, great performances! Incredible talent! Bravo! Loved it. Thank you!

  • Liz

    Whoah. That hit a little close to home. Fantastic show.

  • Rose

    Oh My God! I can’t even put in words how this musical made me feel. This is what theater is! Amazing, amazing, amazing

  • Arnie Perlstein

    I saw the show twice on Broadway, and am so glad that Spike Lee chose to make this film! This show will be remembered for a LONG time!

  • Tamela

    Awesome. Thank you.

  • Timothy

    I do not watch muicals. Landed on pbs and never changed the channel or blinked. That was awesome can’t wait to share with other people.

  • Gretchen Irvin

    AMAZING!!!!I caught the musical on PBS half way through and couldnt breath until it was over! Beautiful music with REAL issues and put to together in way ONLY Spike Lee could. Spike Lee is blessed by God and I am blessed because of his talent. THANK YOU PBS.

  • Timothy

    whoops musical. awesome.How do i order this someone please?

  • Siri Comeau

    I wanted to thank PBS, and Thirteen for showing this performance. I am just so sad that I missed it on Broadway. The themes and music so far surpassed what I expect from musicals or rock musicals, that I insist this is the best performance I have ever seen, television and live show included. I also wanted to thank Spike Lee for recording the show and making it available for our viewing. Stew, what a musically affirmative life you have lead, I tip my hat to you and your mother, for whom this show was truly dedicated to.

  • Siri Comeau

    I wanted to thank PBS and Spike Lee for presenting and recording this performance. It was with out a doubt, the best musical, rock or otherwise, I have ever seen. I am only sad that I missed seeing it live, but couldn’t be more grateful to see it on PBS.

  • Steve Jaeger

    This gripped me and carried along unlike anything has in a long time. Bravo! And thank you very much.

  • Deborah

    Wonderful! This is one of the most moving performances I have ever seen. Thank you PBS.

  • Jan Ransom

    I happened to see this as I was surfing, bored. Before the end, I had laughed out loud (many times), and cried more deeply than I have cried for years. I’d never heard of this performance, but I’m now honored to have been able to see such an extraordinary piece of work. Thank you for such depth and thoughtfulness in every word and note! What a fine group of performers! Wow!

  • Mike Maas

    WOW! tuned into this performance while channel surfing and could not take my eyes off it! Absolutely stunning……

  • Yvonne Broaddus

    I was blown away by the originality and the multiplicity of talent. Stew’s ensemble were mesmerizing and I stood spellbound by their performance. BRAVO! Thanks for the film, Spike.

  • Katarina

    It is wonderfull to me,even I am in my 80tiest!
    Congratulation, Katarina

  • Gina Daniels

    Just AWESOME! Outstanding troupe. I was gripped from the start and completely emotional. I am in awe and so happy to see that the world still has hope. Yes, all you need is love…standing ovation.

  • Karthik Karkal

    Switched my TV on for a break. Chanced on this wonderful performance and did not blink till it was over. Truly a treat! Thank you PBS.

  • Amanda

    WOW, I really never been in to the theatre arts, But wow what a performance, absolutely amazing. Does anybody know if they perform in any other big cities besides New York, I would love to see them live.

  • Brent Casavant

    By fortunate happenstance I stumbled across this work, previously unknown to me, on PBS tonight. Wow. Wow! WOW!

    This is the most incredible piece of touching and moving theatre I’ve witnessed anywhere, ever. Thank you so much PBS for airing this. I’m dizzy with amazement this evening.

  • Pam McDonald

    Watching it now. Terrific! This filmed production is as vibrant as when it appeared at the Berkeley Rep Theater!

  • Tim

    Lucky for me that I took a look at PBS Great Performances tonite; it was more than TV. It’s made me feel love. The best feeling and I needed to recycle the life I’ve lived, recapturing these deep thoughts from long ago. Thanks to heaven.

  • David Bockoven

    First time in I can’t remember how long that I wanted to see one of the broadcast performances. I too just fortuitously stumbled onto it, otherwise expressed as “bothered to look.” Thank you!

    Finally, a relief from the music of centuries past and something which helps me feel connected to today and our people. Maybe that’s too harsh. True, though; I can’t escape it. I’m sick to death of exhausted musical forms played to reaffirm the status consciousness of those who are too timid to look into our other cultural worlds. Still too harsh. Sorry. Just trying to make the point that I don’t want to watch the familiar “great Performances,” but I sure want to see more of this genre. Thank you some more.

    I think the last time might have been Michael Franti with The Blind Boys of Alabama, doing Christmas music (during the summer some years past). I’d love to see that again. Now I’m forced to wonder what else I may have been missing, for not bothering to look. I guess I’ll be back. Thanks.

  • Dean L

    You saved my emotional life tonight. I was filled with poison, and the depth of me had given up. Then this landlocked midwesterner found you. I knew of your importance to me within three seconds. I pounded the pillow with excitement. Thank you to everyone that made this possible. Thank you for your respect, insight , affirmation, talent and graciousness.

  • T Moran

    Just kind of stumbled across this on PBS tonight, and I did not touch the remote once after I began watching. ABsolutely Riveting!Brilliant band,
    Great performances,and some sly spoofs of Punk And German rock.One of the few Broadway shows in recent memory to capture the REAL energy of a Live Rock Band. MOST Excellent -
    can’t wait to see where Stew & Heidi go next!

  • suzanne dwillies

    I was so happy when I turned on the TV tonight and saw this come on! I love Rebecca…I have seen her in American Idiot and I was so happy to see her on TV and brought smiles and tears to my eyes! it is such a fantasitc Musical! thankyou from the deep of my heart for you showing this tonight!

  • arsbie mcneal

    i’m sitting in my bedroom after watching the final performance on tbs. it’s 3:47 in the morning and i can’t go to sleep because i have witnessed one of the most moving performances i have ever seen. i want to share this experience with everyone. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • arsbie mcneal

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Barbara Bellows-TerraNova

    Bless you, Spike Lee and Great Performances, for bringing this to us. Stew won the Tony for Best Book the same year as Lin Manuel-Miranda won Best Score for “In the Heights”. There was definitely a new energy on Broadway. Absolutely brilliant! So many quotable lyrics. A masterpiece. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Scott

    I have seen several musical plays this year live, I wish I had the opportunity to see this one. Excellent Performances by all!! Thanks Stew and Heidi. We just stumbled upon this viewing………I am now looking for the next viewing.

  • Arthurene

    Loved it…I will be buying the DVD.

  • TheBlackOne

    Wow! If you switch the male lead for a female, the mother with a dad, and Europe for British Columbia, then you have very creatively shown my youthful life in your stage play. Total kismet that I stumbled on this one. Please play it again, often. I lost sleep thinking about its themes, and crave the wonderful music. How come I have never heard of Stew before this performance? His voice is so familiar- would I know him from a previous incarnation?

  • MEP

    I watched this last night and it was so amazing. The performances were outstanding, and Spike Lee’s filming of it was innovative and unobtrusive. Spike – thanks so much for recording this and sharing it for free! As awesome as it was on screen, I would love to see this live!

  • Doglady

    We were immobile for the entire performance! Love it!!! We would have never known about it and would have loved to seen it live. Every part and performance was magnificent! Truly magnificent! Thanks Spike Lee, and PBS. This is what PBS is all about!

  • Oneil

    Work of modern art. Full stop

  • Christopher Scott

    Wow. I watched a performance that I blew my mind. Passing Strange! I{ have not heard of this show till now. love to watch PBS and i saw the title of the show and did not give it a thought to watch. but after scanning through I stopped on PBS at 8 PM CST and just want to check it out. I was mesmerized but the music that… came through. Through out the show I felt as if I was in the theater and on stage with the performers. The stage set was simple but for the lights behind the stage. The actors or performers (how ever you wish to call them) created the scenery with their personas. I felt I was in an Amsterdam coffee shop and in Berlin. The Music not only entertained but it invoked feelings i have suppressed. I was captivated through out the whole show and can’t wait to own the DVD. Thank you PBS for bringing this show to us.

  • McCellus J Mays

    Totally captivating performance. This is the kind of material I want to introduce and perform at my hometown theatre. Fabulous! Brilliant! Awesome!

  • Char Willis

    I have no words to describe the emotion and power I experienced from this fantastic collection of artist. I cried like I haven’t ever cried before.

  • greg

    now that was some entertaining shit. bring more of that pbs

  • Debra

    Was just surfing channels and came upon this .. this musical, had to keep watching! .. outstanding would be putting it mildly!

  • Whitney Rawls

    I have to admit that I’m casual PBS watcher but, the channel is always in my list for browsing when looking for something to watch. Last night, I ate dinner and watched Mercy and Law & Order: SVU on NBC. Tempted to go to bed after SVU, I realized that I wasn’t quite ready and was really feeling unsettled. Flipped thru the menu guide, scroll down to PBS: “Hmm… what’s “Passing Strange” directed by Spike Lee?” Flip to the channel. Laugh a little. Laugh a lot. Feel a little. Emotions growing, this is too much but, I love it. I can’t stop watching. I move from the sofa to a chair closer to the television. All of a sudden, I’m standing. I can’t take my eyes off the television. I’m hooked. Absolutely amazing.

    My entire work day has gone to searching the web about “Passing Strange.” Bought the DVD at Amazon, watched more clips here on PBS’s website and at, searched for Eisa Davis (I knew she looked familiar – she had a role on HBO’s “The Wire,” looked up the other cast members, found the cast on Facebook, posted a link on my Facebook page, showed clips to people in the office – I just can’t get enough of “Passing Strange.”

    Words cannot express my gratitude for this musical. I wish I could see it in person. Those who have have been doubly blessed.

  • Hakeemah

    awesome loved it…..this was the shit….like im blown away…

  • Valerie in DC

    I saw the preview for this episode of Great Performances on WETA and vowed not to miss it. I didn’t and I had the foresight to tape it. What a journey. Stew’s narration is dead-on and the rest of the cast/musicians, can play, sing, and act their you-know-what off. All I can really say after watching this is, only after you make peace with the choices you make can it be alright. Thanks Stew, keep rocking.

  • A, J. Dade

    I hate musicals and have since girlhood but, I was completely unprepared for this one. Surfing around, I found myself watching something very alien. I was not sure what the heck it was. I could not change the channel. I was mesmerized watching “Passing Strange.” One scene after another, so comical and rich with innuendo that poked fun on so many levels. The comedy, the tragedy; the singing and the gyrations. It was incredible to see something as sublime as this that seemed as though it would never end but then, the ending was just completely over the top. On and on and on it went even after the interview, we had one last fabulous chorus. It is in these instances that we, as viewers, as audiences get to experience the culmination of a group effort that produce a very high level of theatrical art and creative genius, something rare and transcendent before our very eyes. In a word “Passing Strange” is, sublime. I only wish I could have seen it live but, aside from this musical, I wouldn’t be caught watching live musical theatre, under any other circumstance. It was said that Opera also would not translate vis-à-vis the TV but those naysayers were wrong too. What if this production could be taken further, serialized in some form or fashion? Why not? Writers and fine artists create in series all the time. Spike, you and your people should do it again. Congratulations and thank you so much for a spellbinding work of art with the unique and lovely stamp of “Made in America,” all over it.

  • Jeff

    Simply wonderful! Moving! It started to FEEL REAL! I so enjoyed the performances of all and your messages of life, art, constructs, and our perceptions of what is real informed and enlighten me. Yes worthy of my tears. Thank you!

  • Ralph Taylor

    I stumbled on this musical and it spoke to me at my rock bottom deepest level. It seemed someone far wiser than me had offered a glimpse of The Real. The singing, acting, and music, coupled with universality of the message could move the stoniest heart. BRAVO!

  • Tony Sims

    Move over Jesus Christ Superstar,Hair,Tommy,Joseph and his dreamcoat… at least for Ethiopian Americans.Hendrix is very proud as am I. Look at what happens when people get together and art wraps around their spirit!

  • Roberta Price

    Stew, Heidi & Co – Your semi-autobiographical journey took me on a magic carpet ride through my joyous youth, my lovely single days of hotness, my middle aged years of reflection, regret and betrayal of self and by others….while giving me a peek into the changes, the passings, yet to come. You shook me and brought me back to the choir, the alter, the mirror, the anger, the reasons, the beginning, the truth…the love. Thank you for the laughter and the unbelievable number of spontaneous tears that interrupted yet complimented my joy. Like others here in this confessional, I couldn’t fall asleep. I woke up exhausted but with a smile. Yet, revisiting this trip again tonight, I must admit – I am still haunted and it feels so good.

  • dee

    I get the music, appreciate the powerful lyrics, creative staging, the actors are extremely gifted but Stew’s voice after a while is a bit much. Guess I would like a deeper voice in that part, although clearly he is excellent as the keeper of the word. Some of the musical numbers seem too harsh, too busy, almost pushing, forcing: but maybe that’s the whole point. Like labor, you must push to be born.

    I love that PBS will air this type of performance, I remember more then thirty-five years ago when I watched Bill Bixey in only a bath towel,bringing a changing sexuality thru theater. Yes PBS has been keeping it real, for the arts, for a very long time. Congrats to all.

  • MK

    I awoke by chance at 4am only to see this incredible production running on my screen. OMG!!! It is THE most fresh music, acting, Story, and Love I have ever seen. Bravo to all involved. I only hope it airs again at a more popular hour so I can share the experience with friends to enjoy. Really appreciated this in these hard times y’all.

  • AS


  • RD Mosley

    I saw part of this show last night and I am ordering it and letting all of my friends know from the “heavy 1960’s” who would read philosophy, love art and love life. What an inspiration for the soul this wonderful performance is!

  • Kris

    Aaaaaa – I missed it! Please air it again!

  • Wadiya Ali

    Thank you Stew, Spike, PBS for making this possible for all of us who love live theatre but can’t afford it.

  • Gale D.R.

    Stumbled upon the PBS airing by accident and was spellbound. I have never been so inspired to get back into theatre and experiment! Truly genius work that touched my very core. Congratulations to Stew, Heidi, the cast, crew, and Spike. You MUST continue to share this experience by touring more cities. Chicago welcomes you!

  • Katie P.

    I was channel surfing and this caught my attention, so I kept it on. The actors are so talented, the music is wonderful, the story is superb, and it just drew me in. I haven’t been able to pull myself away from it! Much thanks to PBS for showing this.

  • Wanda Ivette

    I just saw it and find it so amazing that it attract my attention , when i wouldn’t be caught seen this . Beautiful , thanks .

  • Marci T House

    I had the honor, pleasure, blessing of seeing this master piece on Broadway. I was directed to see the show on a whim…and I have been forever changed since seeing it. I had no idea what I was in for. I’ve never been so moved by a performance. I wept so deeply that by intermission I could hardly compose myself. I thank you Stew for bringing this amazing piece of art to the world. No, sooner than I left the theater with red & puffy eyes, I immediately called/texted/e-mailed/facebooked everyone I knew in New York, literally begging them to see this musical. This is why I am an artist…this is why I do what I do….it is a gift to be able to move people the way Passing Strange moved me. Once I heard that Spike was going to shoot it…I simply smiled. Thank you Spike for not letting this masterpiece die such a quick death. While channel surfing through my insomnia, what did I happen upon…Passing Strange…and again, I cried like a baby. Thank you Stew, the cast, Spike Lee, PBS & everyone who had a hand in capturing this brilliant piece of art.

  • Susanna O

    I was glad I found the show late night on PBS. I was blown away from beginning to end! It didn’t matter to me that I stayed up til 3am. Many many kudos to all the cast members who really gave it their all…Stew, you rock! I would love to see the show again, but this time I will invite my family to experience it with me. It’s such a treasure to keep to myself! Loving you in San Antonio, Susanna O.

  • Matthew

    Anyone know when it will show again? I missed it

  • Zena Nelson

    Saw it in HD one Friday night at home and was glad I didn’t go out. A great performance indeed. Z

  • Admiral Elk

    I love this. It’s a fantastic show that reaches through theatrical convention and touches the heart. If I have any concern it’s that the theatrical director has been given such short shrift. Surely annie Dorsen’s contributions cannot be overstated. It is her staging we’re responding to.

  • Gallatin

    “Why does it take so long”. I TIVOed the performance and have watched it in parts over three nights after work. I just finished watching Passing Strange and I am still crying. Thank you.

  • Milton Smith

    Thank you. I love watching this play. I Teach at a middle school. I am going to get authorization to let my students watch also. My wife is tired of me watching it. She asked,”How many times are you going to watch that play? my response, “At least one more time!”
    To Your Success,
    Milton Smith

  • Morgan Smith

    My wife & I saw the play three times on PBS & loved it more & more each time. One of the best Broadway musicals we’ve ever seen! We told all of our closest friends & family to watch it. We can’t wait to buy the DVD. Thanks PBS for airing this magnificent show!

  • Byron Mason

    Wow, wow, WOW!! What an incredible work of art. I’d heard the name Passing Strange while it was on Broadway but didn’t know much about it. Caught it on PBS and it completely blew me away! Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Stew. There are so many diverse voices of the African American Diaspora. LET’S SEE AND HEAR MORE!

  • Chuck Pace

    Pow! Never heard of this until I just came across it tonight watching PBS. What a musical, poetic, dramatic, cultural, political mix transcending generations, cultures, and even continents. It reminds me of my first trip to Amsterdam and the first time I saw a white [?] woman with blonde dreadlocks; and yes, later I went to Berlin. As an L. A.-based social worker working with the homeless in a mental health setting “Passing Strange” pushed me, yet again, through my own Journey far and wide. Thank you!!! to everone who worked so hard and talentedly to bring this experience into my life.

  • Busby

    I MISSED iT !!!!! — Will it be on again ?????
    I keep trying to search but no luck – if anyone knows if it will be broadcast again in the Los Angeles Area Please Let me Know !!!

  • DJ

    There’s nothing else to say but thank you Spike, thank you Stew, thank you PBS for bringing this masterpiece to those of us who otherwise could never have experienced it.

  • J.JANE

    This was so AMAZING. I’m in love with this play. my favorite so far. till this day i cant get the songs out of my head completely. Will this ever air again ???

  • Shelly

    I saw this, and I was blown away. This is incredible. The story of my life. Already purchased the DVD.

  • Sharon B

    This had been lingering on my DVR list for a month or more. I finally watched it tonight and now cannot bear to delete it. out of this world good- I wanted to call friends to come over RIGHT NOW to watch with me. I rarely buy DVDs but think i have to get this one to keep.

  • Sarah

    I love this play and i watched it on my DVR until my brother deleted it. So i’ll just get to the point do you think that PBS can play it again soon. Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?(:

  • Zen

    I just stumbled upon this play. I would like to see it. Can you market when you can show it again? I truly would love to see it. – thank you in advance!

  • nic koller

    wow. i have to admit that this plot is the story of my life – minus europe so far. as much as i have watched pbs i haven’t seen this one. I am a big fan of rock musicals and write rock opera albums in my spare time :).

  • Elenor Pauline

    Norma! I am so sorry. Thanks for taking the time to let us know. It’s all fixed now.

  • Walter


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