~ Herald Sun, February 2011
“An exuberant celebration!” ~ Associated Press
“An ecstatic phenomenon” ~ Time Out New York
“Explosive!” ~ Backstage
“An experience unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.” ~ Broadway.com
Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Will & Jada Pinkett Smith present Fela!!
After hugely successful runs on Broadway and across the pond in London, England and Lagos, Nigeria, the three-time Tony award winning musical is now on tour in the U.S. and will be playing at the Atlanta Civic Center in Atlanta, Georgia through October 16, 2011.
Reviewed By: Cheryl Armour
His story inspired a nation. His music inspires the world.
Based on the life and music of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the show gives you a glimpse into the heart and mind of the Nigerian born man, musician and composer, the pioneer of Afro-beat music and well-known social and political activist.
Fela devoted his life and his music to speaking out against the many forms of corruption, injustice and oppression inflicted upon the people by the military regimes of his native Nigeria. He was increasingly harassed, arrested, beaten and nearly killed on several occasions as his message inspired a generation of people and his music gained popularity. But he would not be deterred, not by the numerous beatings he received, nor or by the scars left all over his body. His message of transparency, honest government and justice for all was and is timely and relevant, not just in Nigeria, but around the world, which has contributed to the global success of his music and his message.
Fela! opened in Atlanta to a packed house on Tuesday, October 11th. The band played several selections prior to the start of the show to warm up the crowd as they waited with great anticipation.
The title character, Fela Kuti, was played by Sahr Ngaujah, a theater director and actor of Sierra Leonean descent. Born in the United States, he began his career in theatre with the Freddie Hendricks Youth Ensemble in Atlanta, Georgia. Sahr does a magnificent job of bringing the character of Fela to life. He portrays Fela’s sense of humor and showmanship, engaging the crowd with witty banter and conversation between stories and musical selections which weave together to tell the tale of how his music and his message were developed and have evolved over the years. Interacting with the crowd, eliciting cries of “Yeah-Yeah!, telling stories and jokes, he amuses and entertains the audience while telling his story. He tells of how his mother and upbringing as well as his travels abroad have influenced and inspired him.
Fela’s mother, Funmilayo, (played by Melanie Marshall) was a feminist and civil rights activist who greatly influenced her son. She was a constant source of inspiration and motivation. In 1969, Fela traveled to Los Angeles to tour and record. While there, he met and became friends with Sandra Isidore (played by Paulette Ivory) who introduced him to the writings and political views of African American social activists such as Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver and Nikki Giovanni to name a few. With new insight and a new worldview, Fela returned to Lagos, Nigeria determined to take on corruption in his country with music as his weapon. He founded Kalakuta Republic, a recording studio and commune for his band members and family. The compound also included a private nightclub called The Shrine where Fela and his band performed regularly. They recorded and played constantly, becoming huge stars in West Africa and beyond in the process. On top of being a pop star, Fela increasingly became a political figure. He formed his own political party, MOP (Movement of the People) and eventually ran for president.
The cast of Fela! does a wonderful job of drawing in the crowd, captivating the audience with gyrating, hip shaking, dancing, magnificent singing, the rich and rhythmic music of the band and Fela’s solos on saxophone all the while taking them on an exciting ride through the highs and lows of one man’s struggle to change the world, beginning with his homeland of Nigeria. Fela's music and his message have been given new life through its portrayal in Fela! The musical introduces the man and his legacy to those around the world who may not have heard of him, while keeping his memory alive for fans who consider him to be a musical and cultural hero.
Fela! was directed and choreographed by legendary Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti (October 15, 1938 — August 2, 1997)
Click COVER for magazine
page layout views