Based on the life of a breakthrough Nigerian activist and a composer Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Fela! is a musical that has been entertaining the theatre goers for more than two years now. With its solid lineup of musical scores, and an inspiring plot, the musical has all the elements that are required to make any musical a successful one. The lyrics and music of the musical is mainly given by the Fela Kuti himself, while the credit of some additional music goes to Jordan Mclean and Aaron Johnson, with Jim Lewis’s additional lyrics. Apart from the lyrics Lewis also co wrote the book of the musical along with Bill T. Jones. The plot of the musical keeps the audience on the edge of their seats as Fela is targeted by 1,000 soldiers, who want to end Fela’s public performances at a night club called The Shrine, once and for all.
The musical originally premiered as an off Broadway production back in 2008. During its off Broadway run, the musical ran for a one whole month. The off Broadway production came out to be a huge success which became evident from the musical winning multiple Lucille Lortel Awards for the categories of Outstanding Choreographer, Outstanding Costume Design and the Best Musical. The musical made its debut on Broadway on November 23, 2009, and it wasn’t anything less than a success story during its run on Broadway. In fact the musical went on to receive eleven Tony Award nominations in 2010 and out of these it managed to win three Tony Awards for the categories of Best Sound Design of a Musical, Best Choreography, and Best Costume Design of a Musical.
The musical premiered as an off-Broadway production in New York City at the 37 Arts Theatre B on September 4, 2008. The production ran for almost a month and closed down on October 5, 2008. Bill T. Jones took the responsibilities as the director and choreographer of the musical, and apart from that he along with Jim Lewis and Steve Hendel conceived the idea of the musical. The original off-Broadway cast featured Sahr Ngaujah who played the role of Fela, while the role of Fela’s mother was played by Abena Koomson.
On 19th of the same month on which the off-Broadway production closed down, the previews of the musical started at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on Broadway. Fela! officially opened for audience at Broadway on November 23. The Broadway production was also choreographed and directed Jones, but the cast members had the addition of Kevin Mambo as Fela and the role of Funmilayo is played by Lillias White, but she will be replaced by Patti LaBelle later in September. The original Broadway production is scheduled to run all the way up till January 2, 2011.
Kuti’s music that has been included in the musical is played by Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra that is based in Brooklyn, for both the, Off-Broadway and Broadway productions. Following the success that the musical has enjoyed in United States, a production is also scheduled to open at the London’s West End. The previews of the musical will start off on November 6, 2010 at the National Theatre Olivier Theatre while the official opening of the musical is scheduled on November 16. Although all the names of the cast members haven’t been revealed yet, but it has been assured the musical will be featuring Kevin Mambo and Sahr Ngaujah.
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