Skip to main content

The song cycle "Brooklyn Omnibus," by the new Brooklynites who created "Passing Strange," eventually takes us to the haunted arena

Last night I went to the BAM Harvey Theater to see the new song cycle, Brooklyn Omnibus, created by the musicians Stew and Heidi Rodewald, the collaborators on the terrific, quirky, Broadway musical play Passing Strange.

(Photo, via Brooklyn Based, by Jeff Fasano)

Stew, a black guy from L.A. who spent a lot of time in Germany, is an avant-garde rocker; Rodewald has punk rock roots. Both are newcomers, so they don't claim authority, but Rodewald says in this interview she's already nostalgic.

So, with a ten-piece band, three backup singers, and--crucially--video projections, they create a collage that, while hardly comprehensive, prompted nods and laughter from the audience. And yes, at the end, Brooklyn's signal controversy and alleged new centerpiece, the Barclays Center arena, got a macabre mention.

(Here's Louise Crawford's take on OTBKB.)

The blurb

Here's the official blurb:
Stew, the Tony Award-winning creator and star of Broadway’s Passing Strange, joins his band The Negro Problem and co-creator Heidi Rodewald for an irreverent, genre-bending song cycle that considers what it means to call Brooklyn home. With a swaggering score and a raw, unvarnished lyricism, Brooklyn OMNIBUS refracts the Kings County experience through a surreal prism of disparate characters, all living in a nomadic place where the neighborhood is a tribe, the self is an ever-changing storefront, and home is an elusive refuge resting somewhere between.
A few excerpts

"Brooklyn Omnibus" is not to be taken literally; for the purposes of the show, it represents a car service.

"Maybe there's black people in Fort Greene," is the chorus to one early song, which provoked multiple ironies: Stew's a black guy who plays to mostly white (but quite mixed) audiences; we were in Fort Greene (Stew's neighborhood); and the three chorus members were black (while the band was mostly white).

Another song, enhanced by split screen video of the Fulton Street Mall and 7th Avenue in Park Slope, posited a magical switch, in which mall denizens found organic "bling" in the Slope and Slopers bought nonorganic milk.

Less successful was a song about (I think) a white guy in Bed-Stuy who mugged his neighbors to keep the rents down.

A "sexy Brooklyn mommy" song clearly applies to specific neighborhoods, while a song about nostalgia--enhanced by old postcards--ranges more broadly.

The haunted arena

There was an encore, a "vampire song" on which Stew had to vamp a bit, since he'd misplaced the lyrics, but, as he sang, "only ghosts have eminent domain/we can't wait 'til the Barclays Center is done."

He continued: "Only the dead have eminent domain/it's the dead's job to drive the living insane."

In other words, even a newcomer knows it's haunted (with a nod to Thomas Wolfe's "Only the Dead Know Brooklyn.")


From an interview

In an interview with Sandy Sawotka, BAM’s communications director:
What drew you to Brooklyn as a subject? How is Brooklyn unique?
Stew:
Brooklyn is too big to grasp and always in flux. Like the universe, it is unknowable, and yet we keep trying to figure it out. Brooklyn started us thinking about how strongly people identify with neighborhoods and the pleasures and dangers of that. As Californians, we are far less tribal than East Coast people; we were fascinated by that. There was also a very American ahistorical thread I became obsessed with—the idea that people can identify so strongly with an area culturally and racially that may have been populated by a completely different culture/race just 15 years before.
He also adds, later:
Everybody in Brooklyn feels like they own it. We don’t. If anything, we feel like Brooklyn owns us.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…