Spike Lee’s latest movie is a film version of the Tony Award-winning musical autobiography, something between a concert and a play, about, by, and starring the one-named musician named Stew. He heads up the on-stage band, which functions somewhere between an orchestra and a Greek chorus, in this story based on his experiences leaving home to move to Europe and find himself.
Stew and his collaborator, Heidi Rodewald have put together a show that is very specific and autobiographical but also archetypal. It has a terrific script that perfectly captures the tug of home, the lure of away, the hunger for art, and the vulnerability of relationships. The main character’s only name is Youth to emphasize his Candide-ish qualities. The show is genre-crossing, with music that shows the influence of rock, pop, funk, gospel, and more. It explodes with electrifying performances by Daniel Breaker as Youth and a top-notch cast that instantly creates a range of international characters. Lee’s camera takes us into the heart of the action, even back-stage, seamlessly integrating three different performances.