Last night I made it back to Broadway for the first time in a year and a half. And for what a knockout of a show.
This posting will be brief because my brain isn't doing its job of accessing words very well after staying up so late, and because I don't have much time to devote to it. Don't let brevity mislead you, however. Fela! is a night of musical theater like none other I've ever experienced. It merits a lengthy concatenation of superlatives leaping from the music to the musicians to the singers to the choreography to the dancers to the set and lighting design to the story to the politics. All of it, every aspect of this triumphant production, knocked my socks off.
Fela! is based on the life and career of the Nigerian composer/musician/singer/activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who in the 1970s created the Afrobeat music movement and went on to become a major force in the Pan-Africanist left. His mother Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was a leader in the struggle against British colonialism and also in the women's movement. The musical depicts all of this--Fela's music, politics, and his mother's role and influence on the nation and on him--with great passion and equally great artistry.
I am now officially in awe of Bill T. Jones. I've long admired his work as a choreographer and dancer. He not only choreographed--and brilliantly, including, Read Red friends, a dance number having to do with books and reading, the dancers brandishing books as political weapons--but also wrote and directed this show. What an achievement. What a contribution.
Friday, March 19, 2010