Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fela! on Broadway

For those of you who know me in real life and maybe even a few of you who have followed me long enough on this site, it is no surprise that I am a lover of all things theater.

Before I had a child, it was a regular yearly trip to New York with my best friend, Trever, to see the city and to see as many shows as possible. Some of my favorites have been Sweeney Todd, Grey Gardens and The Glass Menegarie.

I also grew up being a part of theater, having spent seven summers attending the Children's Theater Company at the college in my hometown.  I also participated in my small town's theater and even did my senior year highschool play. I played the accordion. I was awesome.

Since I've been an adult however, I have not participated myself but have tried to go to as many shows as I can afford.

Just recently I came across an opportunity to review the show Fela! at one of the theaters in the Twin Cities, the Ordway. I sent in my information and the very next day, was sent the information for two free tickets to the show. 

I was amazed and thrilled and a little too excited! 

Fela! was one of the shows I had on my list to see the last time I was in New York but I could not fit it in. I am so glad this opportunity came up because it was, quite, simply one of the best shows I have ever seen. Definitely in the Top 5.

Here is a little about Fela! if you are not familiar. (from the Fela! Wiki website)

Fela! is a musical with a book by Bill T. Jones and Jim Lewis, based on music and lyrics by the late Nigerian singer Fela Kuti, with additional music by Aaron Johnson and Jordan Mclean and additional lyrics by Jim Lewis. It is based on events in the life of groundbreaking Nigerian composer and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti. It portrays Kuti in the days when he was the target of 1,000 government soldiers assigned to end his public performances at the legendary Lagos nightclub The Shrine.
The musical ran Off-Broadway for one month in 2008 and premiered on Broadway on November 23, 2009. The Off-Broadway production won the Lucille Lortel Awards for Best Musical, Outstanding Choreographer for Bill T. Jones, and Outstanding Costume Design for Marina Draghici. The Broadway production received eleven 2010 Tony Awardnominations and won Best ChoreographyBest Costume Design of a Musical, and Best Sound Design of a Musical.[1]

I went in knowing his music and his politics. My husband, who is a drummer, has been a fan for many years. We own many recordings of his music and have seen documentaries of his life. We even, just a few months ago, saw one of Fela's sons, Seun Kuti perform in town. Amazing. I was curious as to how Fela's life would translate to a Broadway musical stage.

I found it to be a perfect blend of his music, his politics, his vibrant personality and masterful musicianship. His music is loud, vibrant, full of passion and his stage performances come with many dancers and musicians. I sat in awe as the dancers gave such a passionate, athletic performance. Wow! How they can stand after a 2 show day, I don't know! The crowd even was instructed to get up and move. All inhibitions aside, I was impressed with the way the crowd responded to the actor who portrayed Fela. I could get a sense of how Fela, in real life, could easily draw in his many followers. We were swept up and didn't hesitate to shake our you-know-whats. It was so much fun!!

Theater, to me, gives me such an immediate sensation. I'm drawn in. Like reading, it's a way to lose yourself in a story but it's there, front and center, in your face. I love it. This show is a testament of how theater can transform you to a different place and open your eyes to a world not really know to many. 

I highly recommend this to any fans of theater but also of dance and vibrant music. Afro-beat has a pulse that can not be summed up too easily with words. It's an experience you have to see live. Fela's power as a human, a politician, a humanitarian and a musician comes out in this. I can see why there were a million people at his funeral.

Thanks again to the Ordway for this wonderful Blogger Night opportunity.

Site of interest:
Fela! on Broadway

Must watch video:

Happy Viewing and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Jenny said...

This sounds awesome! And on the one hand it's cool that he gets the audience participation like that, but on the other hand I don't know if I'd particularly want to join in, LOL.

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

I have never heard of this one! But wow does it sound great! Kind of Sound of Music meets Michael Jackson. (in his early really incredible thriller days!) I'm going to have to check around Atlanta to see if it's playing here. And how cool you landed theater tickets! Oh and when will you hear about your handsome little guy making his broadway debut?!?!?