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RIALTO CHATTER: FELA! Opening Night to be Changed for Celebrities?

The New York Times is reporting that producers are considering changing the opening night of the new Broadway musical FELA! in order to accommodate the schedules of contributing celebrities, including rapper Jay-Z and movie and television stars Will and Jada Pinckett Smith. Producers want to include Jay-Z and the Smiths in order to increase publicity for the show and to allow them to be recognized for their investment.

To read the full report in the New York Times, click here.

The current scheduled opening night, November 23rd, was originally going to conflict with Jay-Z's schedule and producers had considered moving the opening to the 24th. However, Jay-Z may now have the ability to attend on the 23rd.

The world premiere of Fela!, a new musical based on the life of groundbreaking African composer, performer and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti, completed a successful run on October 5th, 2008, at 37 Arts. 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.

Performances for FELA! take place Monday through Saturday at 8pm and Saturday at 2pm. Tickets range in price from $55 to $99 and can be purchased online through

For more information, visit FELA!'s webste at



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