News: Casting announced for Passing Strange

The Young Vic Theatre today announces casting for the European premiere of the electrifying Tony, Drama Desk and Critics Circle Award-winning rock musical Passing Strange. Directed by Liesl Tommy (Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, Tony nominated Eclipsed), this new production of the hit Broadway show follows a young musician as he sets out on a musical odyssey, through 80s L.A, Amsterdam and Berlin. It features book and lyrics by Stew, music by Stew Stewart and Heidi Rodewald. Previews begin at the Young Vic from 14 May and it runs until 6 July.

Giles Terera, best known for his Olivier Award winning role as Aaron Burr in the original London cast of Hamilton plays Narrator; Rachel Adedeji, seen in the leading role ofFunmi in the BAFTA winning series Dreaming Whilst Black plays Mother and Keenan Munn-Francis,recently recognised in 2023 British Independent Film Awards Breakthrough Performance longlist for Black Dog, plays Youth. The cast is completed by Renée Lamb (Six the Musical)  as Desi/Sherry/RenataDavid Albury (Get Up Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical) asRev Jones/Terry/Christophe/HugoCaleb Roberts (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical) as Mr Franklin/Joop/Mr Venus,and Nadia Violet Johnson (School of Rock) as Edwina/Marianna/Sudabey.

The band is Ikechukwu Onwuagbu (Bass), Nick Pinchbeck (Keyboards/Guitar), James Taylor (Drums) and Art Terry (Keyboards/Guitar).

You know, it’s weird when you wake up in the morning and realize that your entire adult life was based on a decision made by a teenager. A stoned teenager.

A young, Black musician sets out on an electrifying musical odyssey to find himself and his place in the world, swapping his middle-class L.A. upbringing for punk rock and protest in 1980s Amsterdam and Berlin.

The creative team brings together Set and Costume Designer Ben Stones, Lighting Designer Richard Howell, Sound Designer Tom Gibbons, Video Designer Will Duke, Musical Supervisor Brandon Michael Nase, Musical Director Art Terry, Choreographer Dickson Mbi, Voice and Dialect Coach Hazel Holder and Casting Director Heather Basten CDG.

This marks the European premiere of Passing Strange which took Broadway by storm in 2008, receiving seven Tony Award nominations, winning for Best Book of a Musical; seven Drama Desk Award nominations, winning for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Lyrics and Outstanding Music; and it was named winner of the Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical.

Giles Terera (Narrator) won the Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical as Aaron Burr in the original London cast of Hamilton and is now nominated for the 2024 Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Clyde’s (Donmar Warehouse). Other recent performances include Blues for an Alabama Sky for which he received Olivier and Evening Standard Best Actor Award nominations, in the title role of Othello (National Theatre), and The Meaning of Zong, also his playwriting debut (Barbican & Bristol Old Vic). Previous West End credits include: Rosmersholm, The Book Of Mormon, Avenue Q, The Rat Pack, Jailhouse Rock, 125th Street and Rent. Film and TV includes: Scrooge, Death of England: Delroy, Maxx, Flack, The Current War.

Rachel Adedeji (Mother) played Funmi in the BAFTA winning series Dreaming Whilst Black. She can currently be seen in PBS/Channel 4’s Alice & Jack and BBC/Netflix’s Champion. She recently completed filming for the Paramount+ feature film Hard Home and will soon be seen in The Almond and the Seahorse. Other screen credits include RIPD 2: Rise of the Damned and Whitstable Pearl. Rachel was an X Factor finalist in 2009 before starring in Thriller Live! (West End & UK tour) and Jesus Christ Superstar (UK Tour). She went on to play series regular Lisa Loveday in Hollyoaks until 2020.

Keenan Munn-Francis (Youth) was longlisted for Breakthrough Performance in the 2023 British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) for his leading role as Sam in Black Dog. He recently completed filming for the BBC One adaptation of Bernardine Evaristo’s novel Mr Loverman in the role of Young Barry. Previous television credits include BBC’s Call the Midwife and Disney’s Penny on MARS. Theatre includes: The Lion King, Thriller Live (West End), Our Lady of Kibeho (Royal & Derngate), Five Guys Named Moe (Underbelly), Filthy Business (Hampstead), Soul (Royal and Derngate / Hackney Empire), Lord of the Flies (Regent’s Park), The Scottsboro Boys (Garrick Theatre).

Renée Lamb (Desi / Sherry / Renata) originated the roles of Catherine of Aragon in Six the Musical and, most recently, the leading role of Jeanne in Cake (West End). Previous stage credits include: Little Shop of Horrors (Regent’s Park), Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World (UK tour), Be More Chill (The Other Palace / West End), Malory Towers (Wise Children), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Mercury Colchester & Southwark Playhouse). Film includes: This is the Night Mail. Renée will also be seen in This Town, the upcoming six-part series for BBC One penned by Steven Knight.

David Albury (Rev Jones / Terry / Christophe / Hugo) played the title role in Get Up Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical and Smokey Robinson in Motown the Musical, both in the West End. Other stage roles include: Committee… (A New Musical) (Donmar Warehouse), The Life (Southwark Playhouse), Exposure – Life Through A Lens (St. James Theatre), Only the Brave (Wales Millennium Centre), The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Birmingham Rep), Love Story (Union Theatre), Porgy and Bess (Open Air Theatre), Bare (Greenwich Theatre), The Lion King (National Tour). Television includes: Doctors.

Caleb Roberts (Mr Franklin / Joop / Mr Venus) played Ike Turner in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical (West End) and won a Black British Theatre Award as Charming in Cinderella (West End). He returns to the Young Vic having previously performed in the Taking Part community show She Ventures He Wins. Other theatre credits include: I Think We Are Alone (Frantic Assembly), Richard III (Headlong), King Lear (West End / Chichester Festival Theatre). Television credits include A Very English Scandal.

Nadia Violet Johnson (Edwina / Marianna / Sudabey) graduated from ArtsEd. She has appeared as Patti in School of Rock (UK tour), as Young Myrna in The Outlaws Season 3 and performed in concert at the BBC Proms in Bernstein: On The Town.

Liesl Tommy (Director) is an award-winning international theatre and film director. She received the Tony Award nomination for Best Direction for the Broadway hit Eclipsed starring Lupita Nyong’o,and made her feature film directorial debut with the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect starring Jennifer Hudson. Her television credits include Walking Dead, Insecure and Jessica Jones.

Stew (Book & Lyrics / Music)is a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter and Tony/Obie Award winning playwright and performer. He leads two bands: The Negro Problem and Baba Bibi.  He is also Professor of the Practice of Musical Theater Writing at Harvard University.

Heidi Rodewald (Music) is a Tony Award-nominated, Obie Award-winning co-composer, collaborating and performing with Stew for over two decades, releasing 10 critically acclaimed albums and creating new theatre work. Credits include composer with librettist Donna Di Novelli, The Good Swimmer (BAM Next Wave Festival), A Lifesaving Manual (UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance).

Passing Strange was originally produced in Berkeley California, by the Berkely Repertory Theater, and in New York by the Public Theater in creative collaboration with Annie Dorsen.

BSL Performance: Thu 30 May, 7.30pm 
Captioned Performances: Wed 5 June, 2.30pm & Thu 13 June, 7.30pm 
Relaxed Performances: Sat 8 June, 2.30pm & Thu 27 June, 7.30pm 
Sensory Adapted Performance: Tue 18 June, 7.30pm
Audio Described Performances: Sat 22 June, 2.30pm & Tue 25 June, 7.30pm

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