I’ve never been a big fan of musicals; they always seem to cheapen either the music or the narrative of what might otherwise be a perfectly good album or play. But this collaboration by Stew (of The Negro Problem) and his partner/bassist Heidi Rodewald really won me over, big time. Running just over two hours, I do recommend experiencing it in halves; the intermission is there for a reason. And the sophisticated lyrics, punctuated by Stew’s often ironic narration and the inventive choreography and staging, might require more than one sitting to fully absorb. But it all packs quite a punch the first time around.
Really, there are several decades worth of reflections and ruminations about art, music, politics, culture, race – and, of course, motherly love – crammed into and between the lines of this piece. But even if much of it goes over your head on first view, you can’t help but be impressed by the rock-solid songwriting and some absolutely jaw-dropping performances by the cast, which includes De’Adre Aziza, Daniel Breaker, Eisa Davis and Colman Domingo.
Oh, and did I mention that it was filmed by Spike Lee?
Here’s the trailer (which doesn’t really do it justice)-