Tomorrow marks the Broadway debut of the musical "Passing Strange". It was just this past May when the musical, the brainchild of singer/songwriter Stew, enjoyed both critical adulation and an extended run at The Public Theater.
Broadway is, of course, a whole ‘nother level, but it’s one that this work richly deserves. The musical tells the story of a young African-American who escapes the protected environment of his 1970s, middle class, church-going world to find himself through the blues and rock ‘n’ roll in Europe. In short, it’s a Black rock coming of age story.
I’m encouraging everyone to see it. Here’s what’s significant about "Passing Strange":
- The music is off the hook.
- It stands as a great example of the ways in which Black rock is moving away from the fringes and towards the mainstream: Again, it’s a Black rock musical on the Great White Way!
- It comes at a time when African American audiences are hungry for more challenging art, art that doesn’t pander or engage in tired cliches. "Passing Strange" is refreshing precisely because of its honesty and because it highlights the diversity of the African American experience.
- It underscores Black rock as a growing niche within the African American community. Marketers would do well to understand the sensibilities of this segment, and how those sensibilities shape not only a world view, but how communications efforts are received. Basically, you’re faced with a growing multicultural cohort that’s creating community based on needs, lifestyles and interests.
In terms of the marketing, the producers seem to have done their homework. The critical acclaim (here and here) provided a great base. However, the producers rightly understood that they needed to make the musical come alive online. I think they’ve succeeded. If you check out the site, you’ll see that they provide a ton of visuals, audio and video clips, and a high level of interactivity that all serves to bring the exuberance of the musical to your desktop. I’ve also noticed that there seems to be a significant spend for outdoor advertising, as well as the incorporation of mobile elements.
Finally, over at Boldaslove.us, I posted an interview with Stew that I conducted a few days ago. In it, we get into some of this issues raised by the musical, particularly the idea that you can, in fact, tell a universal story that’s rooted in the Black aesthetic, but not wallow in stereotypes.
If you’re inspired and/or intrigued, follow the links in the post to find out how to get discount tickets. When you come back amazed, just be sure to tell at least five friends about it.
The official Passing Strange site, with links to its Facebook and MySpace pages.