David Byrne's American Utopia Filmed Stage Show

Director Spike Lee is busy in post-production on Da 5 Bloods, a film starring Chadwick Boseman, Paul Walter Hauser and Giancarlo Esposito. But soon he’ll be taking the time to bring a Broadway stage production to theaters.

David Byrne’s American Utopia is an acclaimed Broadway show featuring the frontman of the band Talking Heads performing songs from his seventh solo album in a unique stage show along with 11 other diverse musicians from around the globe. Spike Lee will be directing a filmed version of the show for audiences to experience in theaters.

Participant is leading the charge with David Byrne’s American Utopia as part of their new efforts dedicated to impact media and engagement toward positive social change. They’ll be joined by River Road Entertainment and Warner Music Group as co-financiers while Radical Media will produce along with David Byrne’s Todomundo and Spike Lee’s Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks production banners. Each of the companies will also have a hand in executive producing along with the Broadway production’s producers Kristin Caskey, Mike Isaacson and Patrick Catullo.

So what is David Byrne’s American Utopia? It appears to be a bridge between theatrical Broadway productions and rock concerts. In an extended statement from David Byrne on the show’s website, here’s how he addressed the inception of the show and what he hoped to achieve with it:

“As I was recording the songs for my American Utopia album, it occurred to me that they would be exciting to play live – and I realized that a lot of my older material would fit right in. I imagined a live show…I pictured a lot of drummers, a kind of drum line/samba school/second line – that would create the rhythms. I had this vision of how exciting that would be – both for me and for an audience.

I also realized that what creates the biggest impact on an audience is performers. By that, I mean we might go ooh and ahh at pyrotechnics and wild video projections, but it’s the people on stage that interest and move us the most. The human connection, I realized, carries more weight and emotion than all the gadgets in the world. If I could foreground the performers, I might connect in a visceral and exciting way.”

You can read more about his statement over here, where he talks about the various hurdles and creative evolution of this idea and how it came to be on the stage to begin with.

Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme previously helmed a concert film called Stop Making Sense following a performance by the Talking Heads, so bringing in Spike Lee to direct a filmed version of American Utopia only makes sense. Byrne couldn’t be more thrilled with the filmmaker’s involvement in helping the show get in front of more audiences:

“Pinch me. This couldn’t have worked out better for this project. Spike Lee directing and Participant producing — two socially engaged teams, well, three if you count us in the band, coming together in what I feel will be something moving, important, and unlike anything anyone has seen before.”

Hopefully that means Lee will be filming it in a unique way beyond how staged productions are usually filmed. He previously shot the Broadway production of Passing Strange for film, and it was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival in 2009.

For more on David Byrne and American Utopia, check out this news featurette on the man and his show:

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