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FELA! Celebrated One Year On Broadway 11/23

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Fela!, recipient of three 2010 Tony® Awards including Best Choreography, will celebrate its One Year Anniversary on Broadway on Tuesday, November 23 @ 7pm at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre (230 West 49th Street) where it opened a year ago to rapturous reviews. Produced by Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter and Will & Jada Pinkett Smith and now starring Patti LaBelle, Fela! is based on the life and music of groundbreaking African composer, performer and activist Fela Kuti. Performances began on October 19, 2009 following a sold-out Off-Broadway run in 2008 and the final performance will be January 2, 2011. Tickets for Fela! on Broadway are available through www.Telecharge.com, by calling (212) 239-6200 or at The Eugene O'Neill Box Office.

Producer Stephen Hendel said today, "Seven years ago, when Bill T. Jones and I met to discuss putting the life and music of Fela Kuti on stage, Broadway was only a dream. Now, celebrating the one year anniversary of Fela! on Broadway and the recent opening of Fela! at London's Royal National Theatre, that dream has become an extraordinary reality. It's been thrilling to witness diverse audiences from around the world - avid theater fans as well as those new to Broadway - and just last week First Lady Michelle Obama get swept up by this inspirational story and irresistible music."


On Tuesday, November 16, 2010, Fela! opened at the prestigious Royal National Theatre in London, starring Sahr Ngaujah, who originated the title role on Broadway. This marks the first time ever that the National Theatre has produced a show that's simultaneously running on Broadway. An international tour of Fela! is currently being booked by Margaret Selby of CAMI Spectrum and Gary McAvay of CAMI Theatricals. Dates to be announced shortly.

Fela! is directed and choreographed by Tony Award-winner Bill T. Jones, with a book by Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones. Kevin Mambo (Emmy Award-winning star of "Guiding Light" and "One Life to Live") plays the title character at alternate performances, while the world renowned Antibalas and other members of the NYC Afrobeat community, under the direction of AaRon Johnson, perform Kuti's rousing music live onstage. Fela! was conceived by Bill T. Jones, Jim Lewis and Stephen Hendel. In addition to Best Choreography, this production was also awarded Tony® Awards for Sound Design (Robert Kaplowitz) and Costume Design (Marina Draghici).

Fela!, the true story of the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti whose soulful Afrobeat rhythms ignited a generation, is a triumphant tale of courage, passion and love, featuring Kuti's captivating music and the visionary direction and choreography of Tony Award-winner Bill T. Jones. Inspired by his mother, a civil rights champion, Kuti defied a corrupt and oppressive military government and devoted his life and music to the struggle for freedom and human dignity.

Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, Will & Jada Pinkett Smith, Ruth & Stephen Hendel, Roy Gabay, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Edward Tyler Nahem, Slava Smolokowski, Chip Meyrelles/Ken Greiner, Douglas G. Smith, Steve Semlitz/Cathy Glazer, Daryl Roth/True Love Productions, Susan Dietz/Mort Swinsky and Knitting Factory Entertainment, in association with Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson present Fela!, a new musical, based on the life of groundbreaking African composer, performer and activist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre (230 West 49th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue).

FELA! Performance Schedule

November 23 - November 28: Tuesday at 7pm; Wednesday at 2pm & 8pm; Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 2pm & 8pm; Sunday at 3pm. (No Performance on Thursday, November 25.)
November 30 - December 19: Tuesday at 7pm; Wednesday - Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 2pm & 8pm; Sunday at 2pm & 7:30pm.

December 21 - December 26: Tuesday at 7pm; Wednesday at 2pm & 8pm; Thursday at 8pm; Saturday at 2pm & 8pm; Sunday at 2pm & 7:30pm. (No Performance on Friday, December 24.)

December 28 - January 2: Tuesday at 7pm; Wednesday at 2pm & 8pm; Thursday at 8pm; Saturday at 2pm & 8pm; Sunday at 2pm & 7:30pm. (No Performance on Friday, December 31.)

Tickets range from $27 - $127 (prices include a $2 Jujamcyn Theatre facility fee) and can be purchased online at www.Telecharge.com, by phone (212) 239-6200 or in-person at The Eugene O'Neill Box Office, located at 230 West 49th Street. For more information about Fela! please visit www.FelaOnBroadway.com.

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti

Fela Ransome Kuti was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, north of Lagos in 1938. His father was a Christian schoolmaster, minister and master pianist and his mother was a world-recognized feminist leader, who was very active in the anti-colonial Nigerian women's movement during the struggle for independence.

Fela was educated in Nigeria amongst the indigenous elite. Ironically, many of his classmates in his Nigerian school would become the very military leaders he so vociferously opposed.

With medical aspirations for their offspring (Fela's older brother, Koye, was to become a Deputy Director of the World Health Organization and his younger brother, Beko, President of the Nigerian Medical Association) in 1958 Fela's parents sent him to London for a medical education. Instead, he registered at Trinity College's school of music where he studied composition and chose the trumpet as his instrument. Quickly tiring of European composers, Fela, struck by MiLes Davis and Frank Sinatra, formed the Koola Lobitos in 1961, and his band became a fixture in London's club scene. Two years later, Fela returned to Nigeria, restarted the Koola Lobitos, and became influenced by JAmes Brown. Trying to find an authentic musical voice, he added elements of traditional Yoruba, high life and jazz, and "Afrobeat" was born. In 1969, Fela's Koola Lobitos traveled to Los Angeles to tour and record. During his eight months in the US, with LA as a home base, Fela befriended Sandra Isidore, who introduced him to the writings and politics of Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver and other proponents of Black nationalism and Afrocentrism.

With this new politically explicit and critical worldview, Fela reformed the Koola Lobitos as Nigeria 70 and returned to Lagos. He founded a commune/recording studio called the Kalakuta Republic, complete with his own private nightclub, The Shrine, and Fela dropped his given middle name "Ransome," and replaced it with a Yoruba name "Anikulapo" (meaning "he who carries death in his pouch"). Playing constantly and recording at a ferocious pace, Fela and band (who were now called Africa 70) became huge stars in West Africa and beyond. His music served as a rallying cry for the disenfranchised, critiquing the military government, and made Fela not only a pop star but thrust him into political life. People took to the streets singing his songs and the military responded by viciously harassing Fela, jailing him and nearly killing him on several occasions.

In 1977, during a government-sanctioned attack on his Kalakuta Republic commune, Fela and other members of his commune were arrested; Fela himself suffered a fractured skull as well as other broKen Bones; a number of women living at Kalakuta were beaten and raped; and his 82-year old mother was thrown from an upstairs window, inflicting injuries that would later prove fatal. The soldiers set fire to the compound and prevented fire fighters from reaching the area. Fela's recording studio, all his master tapes and musical instruments and the only known copy of his self-financed film Black President were destroyed.

After the Kalakuta tragedy, Fela briefly lived in exile in Ghana, returning to Nigeria in 1978. A year later, he formed his own political party, MOP (Movement of the People) and ran for president in two elections, although his campaigning was consistently blocked by the military. As the '80s ended, Fela recorded blistering attacks against Nigeria's corrupt military government.

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was arrested more than two hundred times in his life, and charged with almost every conceivable crime, although only serving one eighteen month sentence in jail for a currency violation. Despite this constant harassment he continued to live in Nigeria even though, as an icon in the international world of rock and roll, soul, jazz and hip-hop, he could have at any point abandoned Nigeria and led the life of an international music superstar. His death on August 3, 1997 of complications from AIDS deeply affected musicians and fans internationally, as a unique and ineffable musical and sociopolitical voice was lost. In Nigeria one million people attended his funeral. His incredible body of work, almost 70 albums, is now available, through public demand, all over the world.


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