Directed by Spike Lee, this “transformative musical experience” is a filmed version of the critically acclaimed Broadway show David Byrne’s American Utopia. It premieres Saturday, October 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
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‘David Byrne’s American Utopia’ Preview
American Utopia was filmed during its Broadway run at New York’s Hudson Theatre, where it received much critical fanfare and played to sold-out houses during its late 2019 to early 2020 run. Featuring David Byrne (former Talking Heads frontman) and an ensemble of eleven musicians from around the globe, the show invites audiences into a joyous dreamworld where human connection, self-evolution, and social justice are paramount. The HBO special was the Opening Night Presentation for the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, where it received tremendous critical acclaim.
The film includes choreographed, untethered performances of songs from Byrne’s 2018 Nonesuch album American Utopia, in addition to popular Talking Heads favorites such as “Once in a Lifetime” and “Burning Down the House.” Brief inter-song monologues allow Bryne to address various socio-political topics such as voter turnout, climate change, and immigration. The band’s powerful performance of Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout” draws attention to police brutality toward Black Americans. Annie-B Parson’s choreography of the band members, who are mostly playing wireless instruments, creates a high-energy spectacle and exhilarating audiovisual experience.
“It is my honor and privilege that my art brother, Mr. David Byrne, asked me to join him in concert, to invite me into his magnificent world of ‘American Utopia,’” said Spike Lee, with Byrne adding, “Spike and I have crossed paths many times over the years, obviously I’m a huge fan, and now finally here was an opportunity for us to work together. I am absolutely thrilled with the result.”
The original Broadway cast who joins Byrne for the special are Jacquelene Acevedo (percussionist), Gustavo Di Dalva (percussionist), Daniel Freedman (percussionist), Chris Giarmo (vocals/dance & vocal captain), Tim Keiper (percussionist), Tendayi Kuumba (vocals), Karl Mansfield (keyboard/music director), Mauro Refosco (percussionist/music director), Stéphane San Juan (percussionist), Angie Swan (guitar), and Bobby Wooten III (bass).
Coinciding with the debut of the HBO special, Bloomsbury will release “American Utopia,” with words and lyrics by David Byrne and art by revered best-selling author, illustrator and artist Maria Kalman. Containing more than 150 illustrations which bring Byrne’s words and lyrics to life, the book is a joyful collaboration between Byrne and Kalman, and an inspiring celebration of the connections between people from all over the world.
David Byrne’s American Utopia premieres Saturday, October 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.