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RIALTO CHATTER: FELA! Close To Bringing The Beat To Broadway


The New York Post's Michael Riedel is reporting that Fela!, Bill T. Jones' electric and emotional musical about Nigerian political activist and Afrobeat creator Fela Kuti, is coming to Broadway in October to the Eugene O'Neill.

Fela! is planning to make the leap to Broadway with the help of hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, according to Riedel. The exact manner in which he will be involved is still unknown at this time, but during its original Off-Broadway run, the show gained the attention of A-listers such as Alicia Keys, Toni Morrison, Charlize Theron and Beyonce.

Jones, who won a Tony for choreographing "Spring Awakening," is planning to take one more pass at the show before beginning previews in September. Fela! was expected to come to Broadway this past season, due didn't make the transfer due to the weak economy among other reasons. To read the full Post report click here.

The world premiere of Fela!, a new musical based on the life of groundbreaking African composer, performer and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti, will finished its successful run on October 5th, 2008, at 37 Arts (450 West 37th Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues).  Directed and choreographed by Tony® Award winner Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening) with a book by Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones, Fela! features Kuti's rousing music performed live onstage by Antibalas and other members of the New York Afrobeat community.  The show, which opened to rave reviews on September 4th, began previews on July 29th and was originally slated to run through September 21th, 2008, but was extended due to popular demand.  

In the new musical, directed and choreographed by Tony® Award winner Bill T. Jones with a book by Jim Lewis, audiences are introduced to the extravagant, decadent and rebellious world of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo 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 imaginative staging, this new show is a provocative hybrid of concert, dance and musical theater.

Fela! featured a dynamic, multi-cultural cast led by the dynamic Sahr Ngaujah in the title role and Abena Koomson as his mother, with Anne Andre, Corey Baker, Calvin C. Booker, Lauren Deveaux, Nicole Chantal DeWeever, Rujeko Dumbutshena, Aimee Graham, Talu Green, Karma Mayet Johnson, Jamal Kendall, Ismael Kouyate, Maia McKinney, Marcus Phillips, Daniel Soto, Sparlha Swa, Jill M. Vallery and Iris Wilson.  Scenic and costume design by Marina Draghici; lighting design by Rob Wierzel; sound design by Rob Kaplowitz; and projection design by Peter Negrini.  The Musical Director was AaRon Johnson.

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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From This Author Eddie Varley