Fela! is not a standard musical. It’s not even a non-standard musical. Frankly, I don’t think you can even call it a musical, because I feel that somehow diminishes what Fela! is. Yes, Fela! is on Broadway and I’m sure it will be nominated (maybe even win) a Tony Award for Best Musical, but I would call Fela! an experience, not a musical.
Energy. Power. Passion. Revolution.
Those are words that grace the cover of Fela!’s playbill. And that’s exactly what Fela! is: energetic, powerful, passionate and revolutionary.
In my Master’s, I took a class on African music. I wrote papers about lowlife vs. highlife and why/how African music is used in their daily life. The combination of music and dance is their story-telling. Even though I academically understood what African music is/was, I never fully understood the passion behind it all until I saw Fela!. The connection between the music, dance and story-telling is fierce – unlike anything I’ve ever seen on Broadway.
Fela! is creating a new audience base for Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s music and it’s 100% successful. I’m totally hooked. The performance by Kevin Mambo (Fela Anikulapo-Kuti) was electric. At the beginning of the show, Fela welcomes us to the final concert at the Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria. It’s the summer of 1978, only six months after the death of Fela’s mother, Funmilayo – played by the incredible Lillias White. Fela invites the audience to become a part of the experience – responding with “Yeah, Yeahs” and dancing to the music. He even gives the audience a quick lesson on how to move your hips like a clock. You couldn’t not participate! The music was speaking to all of us.
I have to give it up to the ensemble members, all eighteen of them. Their passion was easily seen through their dancing and singing. There was so much joy on that stage!
The combination of music, lights, dancing, colorful costumes, story-telling and audience participation became a sensory overload. Not only does it showcase Fela Kuti’s music, but the writers, Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones, crafted a a story that was well-conceived and purposeful.
Prepare yourself for an experience unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.
Go. Now! Feel Fela’s passion, power and energy in this new revolutionary “musical”.
Fela! at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre
Performances from 19 Oct 2009
Opening 23 Nov 2009