The filmed version of David Byrne’s Broadway show “American Utopia” — directed by Spike Lee — has been nabbed by HBO and will debut on the platform later this year, it was announced Tuesday by Nina Rosenstein, EVP, HBO Programming. No specific date was announced.
“American Utopia” features new takes and choreography to some of Byrne’s classic songs with Talking Heads and his solo career and had a sold-out run from October 2019 to February 2020 at Broadway’s Hudson Theater.
People who didn’t get to see the show got a taste of Byrne’s distinct showmanship when he performed with some of the Broadway cast on “SNL” earlier this year.
“David Byrne’s ‘American Utopia’ is a uniquely transformative experience and a perfect example of how entertainment can bring us together during these challenging times,” Rosenstein said in a statement. “Spike’s brilliant direction adds a level of intimacy to this powerful performance, and we’re so thrilled to share this groundbreaking show with our audience.”
“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,” Byrne said. “I am absolutely thrilled with the result. The Broadway show was a wonderful challenge as well as an opportunity – it was a joy to perform and, well, best to let the quotes speak for themselves. Thrilled that this show and the subjects it addresses will now reach a wider audience.”
“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,” Lee said in a statement. “And dat’s da ‘once in a lifetime’ truth, Ruth. Ya-dig? Sho-nuff. Peace and love. Be safe.”
Participant, River Road Entertainment and Warner Music Entertainment are executive producing and financing the project, with Participant as lead. The film is produced by David Byrne’s Todomundo and Lee’s Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks production companies and executive produced by RadicalMedia. Byrne and Lee serve as producers.
Participant’s Jeff Skoll, David Linde, and Diane Weyermann executive produce, along with Warner Music Group’s Len Blavatnik, David Bither, Charlie Cohen, and Kurt Deutsch, Bill Pohlad and Christa Zofcin Workman of River Road, and RadicalMedia’s Jon Kamen, Dave Sirulnick and Meredith Bennett. Kristin Caskey, Mike Isaacson and Patrick Catullo, who lead produced the Broadway production, also serve as executive producers.
“We are thrilled to partner with HBO in bringing David Byrne’s ‘American Utopia’ to audiences everywhere,” David Linde, CEO of Participant, said in a statement. “The creativity and artistry of David Byrne and Spike Lee, together, with the urgency and relevance of this celebratory film, have resulted in an event that is truly of and for our times.”
The original ‘American Utopia’ album by Byrne from 2018, as well as the Broadway cast recording, were released on Warner Music Group’s Nonesuch Records.
The Broadway production featured the work of American choreographer Annie-B Parson and Tony®-nominated Alex Timbers serving as production consultant, both of whom previously collaborated with Byrne on the acclaimed Imelda Marcos musical Here Lies Love; lighting design by Rob Sinclair and sound design by Pete Keppler; Karl Mansfield and Mauro Refosco are musical directors.