THE INTERNATIONAL SENSATION
CURRENTLY ON AN ACCLAIMED WORLD TOUR
RETURNS TO BROADWAY THIS SUMMER
32 PERFORMANCES ONLY
JULY 9 – AUGUST 4
CAST INCLUDES AWARD-WINNER SAHR NGAUJAH IN THE TITLE ROLE
JOINED BY STARS OF LONDON’S NATIONAL THEATRE PRODUCTION OF FELA!
MELANIE MARSHALL & PAULETTE IVORY
AL HIRSCHFELD THEATER
(302 WEST 45TH STREET)
(June 11, 2012 – New York, NY) Producers Shawn ‘JAY Z’ Carter, Will & Jada Pinkett Smith, Ruth & Stephen Hendel, Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson and The National Theatre of Great Britain today announced the return of the critically acclaimed, award-winning production of Fela!, currently on a multi-city world tour, for a limited run of 32 performances ONLY at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre (302 West 45th Street) from July 9 – August 4. Exploring the extravagant world of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, this provocative hybrid of dance, theatre, music, biography and a party like no-other is directed and choreographed by Tony® Award-winner Bill T. Jones, with a book by Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones. The world renowned Antibalas and other members of the NYC Afrobeat community, under the direction of Aaron Johnson, again perform Kuti’s rousing music live onstage. Recipient of three 2010 Tony Awards (Best Choreography, Best Costumes, Best Sound Design), Fela!, featuring the music and lyrics by Fela Kuti, was conceived by Bill T. Jones, Jim Lewis and Stephen Hendel, features additional lyrics by Jim Lewis, and additional music by Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean. The musical is inspired by the authorized biography Fela: This Bitch of a Life by Carlos Moore. The press opening for this engagement is scheduled for Thursday, July 12 at 7 PM.
A spectacularly inspiring and triumphant tale of courage, passion and love, Fela! is based on the life of Fela Kuti, who created Afrobeat – a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies – and mixed these sensual eclectic rhythms with simple but powerful lyrics that openly assailed Nigeria’s corrupt and oppressive dictatorships. Featuring many of Fela Kuti’s most captivating songs performed by a combined cast of the original Broadway production and the Royal National Theatre production all under Bill T. Jones’s visionary staging, Fela! reveals Kuti’s life as an artist and human rights activist and celebrates his pioneering music in what has been hailed as one of the most exciting, exhilarating and vital stage experiences in recent memory.
Olivier and Tony Award-nominated actor Sahr Ngaujah* leads the cast of Fela! He is joined by Melanie Marshall and Paulette Ivory, the two stellar female stars ofthe Olivier-nominated National Theatre of Great Britain production. This touring production is a once in a lifetime experience, a glorious amalgam of the original casts of both Broadway and London’s Royal National Theatre. (*At certain performances, the title role will be played by Adesola Osakalumi and Duain Martyn.)
Just before completing its 14-month, award-winning run on Broadway, Fela! simultaneously played a sold-out 9-week engagement at the National Theatre of Great Britain, becoming the first broadway show ever to both perform on the National’s prestigious Olivier stage and to be featured on NTLive, where a National Theatre performance was screened in over 400 cinemas in 20 countries. Following that success, the production traveled to Lagos, Nigeria where it became the first Broadway show in history to play in Africa with its original cast. An acclaimed run during the 2011 Holland Festival followed, winning praise from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, then Fela! returned to London for a summer run at Saddler’s Wells. While back in London, members of the company performed for Prince Charles at a reception at St James’s Palace. In September 2011, Fela! returned to the United States, opening in Washington, DC and went on to play hit runs in several cities including San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta and a six-week sold-out engagement at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. After this summer’s return to Broadway, Fela! will continue its world tour with stops in Australia, Japan, a return to Africa, a reprise engagement at the Ahmanson in May 2013 followed by the Chekov Festival (Moscow, Russia) in June 2013 and numerous other cities around the world still to be announced.
Critics around the world have been effusive in their praise. Upon the show’s original opening on Broadway in 2009, the kinetic energy pulsing from the music and dancing of Fela! prompted Ben Brantley of The New York Times to say “There should be dancing in the streets.” The London critics were no less enthusiastic, with the Evening Standard honoring the production with four stars and proclaiming it “a bold new direction for musical theater!” Back in the U.S., Peter Marks of The Washington Post described it as “electroshock therapy for the soul,” and Charles McNulty added in The Los Angeles Times that Fela! was “the most exuberant musical I’ve seen. The fusion of Fela’s sound is rapturously celebrated with a pinwheel parade of pelvises.” Boston’s influential entertainment reporter, Joyce Kulhawik, demanded that her readers see the show calling it “one of the most exhilarating and enlightening evenings I’ve ever spent in a theater!” And, as the Don Aucoin exclaimed in the Boston Globe, “Don’t miss the electrifying, explosive and sensational Fela!,” making its triumphant return to Broadway for a limited 32-performances, as part of its current world tour, from July 9 – August 4.
Fela! is directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, with a book by Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones, and music and lyrics by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Conceived by Bill T. Jones, Jim Lewis and Stephen Hendel, the design and Tony Award winning costumes are by Marina Draghici, lighting design by Robert Wierzel and the Tony Award winning sound design by Robert Kaplowitz.
Fela! is produced by Shawn ‘JAY Z’ Carter, Will & Jada Pinkett Smith, Ruth & Stephen Hendel, the National Theatre of Great Britain, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Roy Gabay, Edward Tyler Nahem, Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson, SlavaSmolokowski, Chip Meyrelles/Ken Greiner, Douglas G. Smith, Steve Semlitz/Cathy Glazer, Daryl Roth/True Love Productions, Susan Dietz/Mort Swinsky and Knitting Factory Entertainment.
Fela! returns to Broadway for 32 performances ONLY beginning Monday, July 9 at 7pm and playing through August 4 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 West 45h Street at 8th Avenue. The performance schedule is as follows: Monday, Tuesday at 7pm; Wednesday at 2pm and 7:30pm; Thursday at 7pm; Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 2pm & 8pm. DARK SUNDAY. Tickets for performances July 9 – July 12 are $47 – $92. For performances July 13 – August 4, tickets are $47 – $132. All prices include a $2 Jujamcyn Theatre facility fee. Tickets can be purchased online at www.Telecharge.com, by phone (212) 239-6200 or in-person at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 West 45th Street at 8th Avenue (beginning June 18).
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.