American Morning

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December 27th, 2010
06:00 AM ET

Fela! on broadway concludes run but legacy lives on

After more than a year of awards and world-wide acclaim, Fela! will have its last performance on January 2nd. Directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner, Bill T. Jones, the musical opened on November 23, 2009 after an off-Broadway run of two years. The musical was nominated for 11 Tony awards and won three including best choreography, best costume, and best sound design. In September, the cast welcomed Patti LaBelle as Fela's mother. She attended the play and "was struck by the choreography and work of Bill T. Jones, and the passion and joy that overflows from the stage" and knew she wanted to be a part of the production.

LaBelle calls Fela's mother, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, who was admirable in her own right, strong and inspiring. She was the driving force in Fela Kuti's life and the inspiration behind his civil rights movement against the corrupt and oppressive Nigerian government. LaBelle's star power overwhelms the crowd when she first comes onstage but Fela Anikulapo Kuti remains the real center of attention. The audience is taken on a biographical journey of the late Nigerian music star's life. The cast lights up the stage with its dances and songs depicting Fela's provocative and controversial political and musical legacy. Through Fela's afro-beat song and dance are dynamic in tempo and message and the audience were literally on their feet, singing along at Fela's instruction. The songs differed in content, but not controversy, as one berates the corruption of the Nigerian military government another celebrates the Black Power movement and education. The unifying theme of the entire musical was the essence of Fela's spirit and memory "original, no artificiality." Watch the interviews with Stephen Hendel one of the lead producers and Sahr Ngaujah, the original Fela lead actor in the New York production, now is playing Fela in London's National Theater production.

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