- READER REVIEWS
(No longer in theaters)
The Broadway rock opera by Stew (just Stew) and Heidi Rodewald is captured on film by Spike Lee, who sells the material hard but doesn’t, for once, interpose himself. A full-throttle onstage band and a singing narrator (Stew again) chart the journey of an African-American youth called, uh, Youth (Daniel Breaker) as he searches for fulfillment—first with his mama (Eisa Davis) on the south side of L.A. (via church gospel, then rock and roll), then in Amsterdam (sex, drugs), then in Berlin (anti-bourgeois rants), then back home, always leaving people who love him behind. The first act is camp, but as the various artistic philosophies accumulate, something magical happens: This musical about the evolution of an artist becomes a metaphor for itself. When Stew (who’s Youth grown up) lectures his younger self that life is “a mistake that only art can correct,” the show’s reason for being couldn’t be more crystalline. The cutting is hyperkinetic, yet Lee is always in synch with the cast’s phenomenal energy. He’s in their thrall—and so are we.