Monday, October 19, 2009

Revolutionary New Musical Fela! Stirs Broadway

Revolutionary New Musical Fela! Stirs Broadway

"Come for the music. Come for the dancing. Come awaken your soul."

So beckons Fela! -- a show that dares to call itself the "most original new musical on Broadway." The tuner begins previews tonight at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.

Fela! is based on the life of the late Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer and political activist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (who died in 1997) and features his provocative music, along with additional lyrics from Jim Lewis. Sahr Ngaujah recreates his Obie-winning turn in the title role, although he alternates performances with Kevin Mambo.

During its earlier 2008 incarnation at Off-Broadway's 37 Arts Theatre, Fela! won both critical praise and honors, including three Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Choregraphy for director Bill T. Jones (who earlier earned a Tony for his choreography of Spring Awakening) and Outstanding Costume Design for Marina Draghici.

Influenced by the Black Panthers during a late-sixties stay in the United States, Anikulapo-Kuti returned home to Nigeria and challenged the government's corruption through music the ruling party found highly incendiary. He also organized his own self-declared Kalakuta Republic, a commune which was later burned. After forming his own political party, Movement for the People, Anikulapo-Kuti tried putting himself forth as a presidential candidate, only to be quashed.

At one time, Anikulapo-Kuti also had 27 wives, although he later declared "marriage brings jealousy and selfishness."
Sadly, the musician-activist would ultimately die of AIDS in 1997. His funeral would attract over 1 million mourners.

Bill T. Jones was clearly inspired, thus conceiving and writing the book for this musical. The Fela! Web site described the production as follows:

If you like soul-stirring rhythms, compelling real-life stories and passionate choreography, you will love Fela!

Fela! is a new musical directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones, with a book by Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones, in which audiences are welcomed into the extravagant, decadent and rebellious world of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti. Using his pioneering music (a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies), Fela! explores Kuti's controversial life as artist, political activist and revolutionary musician.

Featuring many of Fela Kuti’s most captivating songs and Bill T. Jones’s visionary staging, Fela! is the most original new musical on Broadway.

Currently slated with an open-ended run, the intriguing Fela! opens on November 19.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 19 October, 2009, Anonymous BroadwayBaby said...

I'm looking forward to this, especially since the show will bring the divine Lilias White back to Broadway!

At 19 October, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

BroadwayBaby, Thank you for mentioning Lilias White's involvement in the production. I neglected to mention the cast for Fela!.

At 19 October, 2009, Blogger Esther said...

And Saycon Sengbloh is in it, too! She left Hair for Fela. I hope it's a good move for her. I'm sure it's a bigger role.

At 19 October, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Ooh yes, Saycon is another great reason to see this show.

At 24 October, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the show is great. I just feel like the tap dancing could be stronger. Plenty of real hoffers out there

At 26 October, 2009, Blogger Just Fun said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 26 October, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Tuhin, your advertising is disguised as a comment. Read #4 in the ground rules and you'll see that they are not tolerated.

At 22 November, 2009, Anonymous April said...

I saw the show on 11/17/09, and it's a wonderfuly powerful and engaging show! Not the usual musical fluff that is being shown on Bway these days. I think a mature audience will appreciate it.

At 22 November, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I agree, April. Look for my SOB Review on November 24!

At 13 December, 2011, Anonymous Sandy said...

I always love going musical Theater theaters. Bill Jones had great job. He really deserve the award. :D


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