The Wilma Theater, in association with Evamere Entertainment, presents Stew and Heidi Rodewald’s Tony Award-winning musical, “Passing Strange,” from now through Feb. 18.
Music takes center stage in this production as a charismatic Narrator who tells the tale of the Youth, a rebellious young African-American man who journeys to Europe in search of something “real.”
He travels from gospel-soaked South Central L.A. through psychedelic Amsterdam to militant Berlin and back. This incendiary musical is a rowdy salve for turbulent times; a young punk screaming in defiance of the void with an electric onstage band.
“Passing Strange” greets the audience with a larger-than-life band and the Narrator, a singer who invites his audience to listen to a tale of the Youth.
In this case the Narrator is played by Los Angeles native Kris Coleman, who always wanted to be in show business but was discouraged by his father.
“My dad, Rahn Coleman, had been a conductor for people like the Temptations, Aretha Franklin and Barry White back in the day. He later started doing musical theater as a conductor and arranger. So he knew just how difficult this business was and didn’t want me to go through the same struggles that he did.”
So his father agreed to pay for college if his son would study something like accounting. “It was more of a kind of protection for me, and although I was angry for some time, eventually I was thankful that the decision was made for me. I was able to earn a living while I went on to become a self-supporting and working actor.
Today, he says he’s thrilled to be making his debut at the Wilma in this beautiful play.
“This is a universal play, but not really universal for African-American men. You don’t find many Black kids who just take off and go to Amsterdam at age 18 trying to find themselves. But it is a beautiful story of life that does come through; the story of everyday life and the everyday experiences we all have as human beings.
“And my job as the Narrator is as the thread that holds the story together,” he continues. “The Narrator has to connect with the audience to help them understand what’s going on. I break that fourth wall and actually interact with the audience. So in fact, I am actually an audience member and they are my co-actors.”
Rahn Coleman has seen his son’s work and acknowledges that he ultimately made the right decision. And so does the younger Coleman. He says, “After 20 years in the business this show has been the best part of my career so far. And for now I feel very, very lucky to be a part of it.”
For times and ticket information, call (215) 546-7824.