Destiny's Child's Michelle Williams Joins FELA! National Tour
Producers Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, Will & Jada Pinkett Smith and Ruth & Stephen Hendel have announced that Grammy Award-winning recording artist and former member of Destiny's Child Michelle Williams will join the national tour of the hit Award-winning Broadway musical Fela! when it opens at Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, DC on January 29. Fela! received three 2010 Tony Awards, including Best Choreography.
"I am thrilled to join the cast of Fela!," said Michelle Williams. "This musical journey is one that I've wanted to be a part of since first seeing it on stage in 2008. The sounds, the passion and the politics of Fela Kuti have long intrigued me and speak to my heart. I am simply honored."
A triumphant and inspirational tale of courage, passion and love, Fela! is the true story of Kuti, who created a type of music, Afrobeat, and mixed these pounding eclectic rhythms (a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies) with rousing lyrics that openly attacked the corrupt and oppressive military dictatorships that ruled Nigeria and much of Africa. Featuring many of Fela Kuti's most captivating songs and Bill T. Jones's visionary staging, the global phenomenon that is Fela! reveals Kuti's controversial life as an artist and political activist, while at the same time celebrating his pioneering music and committment to the cause of universal human dignity. "More than a musical, an ecstatic phenemenon" (David Cote, Time Out New York), Fela! "Is a spectacularly inspiring hybrid: theater, music, dance, biography, history lesson, political rally, and religious experience. Sublime" (Joyce Kulhawik).
A multi-award winning international singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress, Michelle Williams is best known as a member of the record-breaking R&B and Pop sensation, Destiny's Child, one of the world's best-selling female groups of all time. Born and raised in the small Chicago suburb of Rockford, Illinois, Michelle always dreamed of a life on stage. Fiercely guided by her faith and raised with a strong family core, Michelle was certain that one day she'd be a superstar. During her teenage years, she directed church and community choirs; a platform that not only served to develop her distinct voice but also her independence and dexterity as an artist. Throughout her career in Destiny's Child, Michelle explored solo terrain by releasing two gospel recordings: the award-winning "Heart To Yours" (2002), which featured a collaboration with the legendary Shirley Caesar, and "Do You Know" (2004). At the end of 2008, Michelle joined forces with producer Rico Love and created a fresh and innovative sound on her dance/pop album, "Unexpected." The first single released from the album, "We Break the Dawn," quickly became a huge club hit, topping the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Play and Hot Dance Airplay charts. For fans of her subtle and smooth work in Destiny's Child, as well as her soul-stirring spiritual solo work, this was a brand-new Michelle Williams.
In between recordings and concert tours, Michelle has conquered yet another challenging mountain as an actress. First, she took the reigns of Broadway's Aida in 2003 to critical acclaim and audience raves. Then, in 2006, she took to the television screen for a hotly touted, ground-breaking multi-episode run in the popular UPN sitcom "Half & Half," where she played the role of Naomi, a record company executive who is HIV-positive. Later that year, she was featured on FOX's successful "Celebrity Duets" series.
In 2007, Michelle took on her greatest acting challenge when she joined the cast of the Broadway smash, The Color Purple for its national tour. She dazzled in the role of Shug Avery. In 2009, Michelle joined the London West End production of Chicago where she made history as being the first African American woman to play the lead role of Roxie Hart. She reprised her role in February 2010 on Broadway for a limited engagement. In 2011, Michelle starred in the acclaimed touring stage play What My Husband Doesn't Know which is now showing on BET.
Back on the music front, Michelle's latest international single, "On The Run" released in the UK in 2011 and peaked at #4 on Commercial Pop Top 30 Club charts. She collaborated with dance-pop diva, Ultra Naté (Ultra Naté & Michelle Williams) on dance song "Waiting On You" in 2012, Billboard Dance/Club Play charts at #12 (from #17). Michelle is currently in the recording studio working on new material for her pop inspirational album due in 2013.
Michelle is a passionate spokesperson for TERI (Training Education & Research Institute) a non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of life for children and adults with developmental and learning disabilities. She also works with the American Heart Association as an ambassador for the American Stroke Association. Michelle recently became a spokesperson for NVEEE (National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment), an organization focused on preventing bullying, violence and suicide among young people.
Fela! had its world premiere Off-Broadway in the summer of 2008, and opened on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neil Theater to rapturous reviews a year later where it played 34 previews and 463 regular performances. Numerous celebrities and dignitaries caught the groundbreaking musical, including First Lady Michelle Obama, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Kanye West, Oprah Winfrey and Hugh Jackman, among others. Prior to its closing on Broadway, London's Royal National Theatre presented the production as part of its season in the fall of 2010, marking the first time ever that The National Theatre had presented a show that was simultaneously running on Broadway. There, too, the show received rave reviews and numerous awards and accolades. The show went on to tour internationally, selling out theaters in Nigeria, Amsterdam, a return stint in London then a successful tour across the United States, culminating in an acclaimed encore four-week engagement on Broadway during the summer of 2012.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos