‘Passing Strange’ set to close

Tony-nominated musical to end run on July 20

“Passing Strange” has called it quits, with the critically praised, sales-challenged Broadway musical set to close July 20.

That’s the day after two perfs of the rock tuner will be filmed, with live audience, for an upcoming pic version directed by Spike Lee — thereby answering the question of whether the production would hang on long enough to reap any potential marketing benefits from the release of the movie.

The passing of “Strange” marks the second best-musical Tony nominee to throw in the towel after the 2008 awards, following the shuttering of “Cry-Baby” last month. Although “In the Heights,” the season’s winner of the category, has posted robust box office tallies, the fourth contender, “Xanadu,” has been plagued by low sales as well.

Despite a healthy dose of positive press and awards attention, including seven Tony noms and a win for book, “Strange” has had difficulty pulling in crowds since it began Rialto perfs in February. Weekly sales rarely topped $300,000, and last week the tally sank nearly $70,000 to $176,067, with auds at an average of 37% of capacity.

Production has so far grossed about $4.6 million.

Written by single-monikered musician Stew with music co-written by bandmate Heidi Rodewald, the semiautobiographical “Strange” follows a young black man as he departs the middle-class L.A. milieu of his youth for Amsterdam and Berlin in an attempt to find himself.

Musical began life in a co-production that bowed at Berkeley Rep in 2006 and then played Off Broadway’s Public Theater last year. Strong reviews and positive aud response prompted a team of commercial producers, including the Shubert Org and Elizabeth Ireland McCann, to back a Broadway transfer.

The show’s combination of musical theater storytelling and loose rock-concert vibe proved a marketing challenge for a production that aimed to attract a young, racially diverse mix of theatergoers to the Main Stem.

Helmed by Annie Dorsen, the show picked up several awards in the spring, including musical kudos from the New York Drama Critics Circle and the Drama Desk. Tuner also won a couple of Obies for its Off Broadway incarnation.

The filmed version of the musical, produced by “Strange” co-producer Steve Klein and Lee, will incorporate footage from two runs of the show without an audience, in addition to the two perfs July 19. No release date or distribution platform has yet been set.

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