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.
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."
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.