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New York City - Theatre

Previews Begin: October 19th
Opening Night: November 23rd
Open Run
Eugene O’Neill Theatre

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

FELA!, the musical is based on the life of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Fela was famous for many things - inventing a new form of music called Afrobeat, being a political activist who railed against the Nigerian military government (they railed back) and for being an AIDS denier who succumbed to the disease himself in 1997.

But the the Broadway play FELA! is set in a "happier" era of the 1970's when Fela performed nightly in his night club called The Shrine. I say happier with a sense of irony because Fela was routinely arrested and beaten by the corrupt Nigerian government.

In FELA!, the musical, Fela's nightly parties are recreated. The parties are booty shaky, drum throbbing, ganja spiffing, decadent events driven by a Fela's music. But while Fela partied, he also talked and his political view, delivered in pidgen English so all Africans could understand, were an anathema to the corrupt Nigeria military establishment. Unlike the American black activists Fela met when he visited the United States, Fela did not think that that black power would solve the problems of Nigeria. After all, Nigeria had black power and it was corrupt.

The military struck back, attacking Fela's compound and killing his mother. Fela responded by delivering his mother's coffin to the military establishment and creating a new song, "Zombie." "Zombie" became a hit all over the world and the streets of Nigeria were filled with Zombies marching to the song. All of this is depicted to great effect in the musical. .

The musical is directed by and choreographed by Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones and is in the words of the press release, a "provocative hybrid of concert, dance and musical theater." It is also must-see musical theater.

Fela! is playing in open run at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre at 230 West 49th St. Tickets are Ticket Price: $50.50 - $122.00; $27.00 Rush at 212-239-6200 & 800-432-7250 &



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