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

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…

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…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…