The musical is structured as one of Fela's concerts at his club in Lagos, Nigeria - the Afrika Shrine. Fela tells stories of his life, family, and country, and shares his music with the audience in an interactive way. The audience is part of the show, and the more they play along, the more fun everyone has. Be prepared to get on your feet and dance a little, but don't worry, if you can read a clock, you can follow along. :) But it's not all fun and easy. Fela talks about his travels to America, where he became inspired by the Black Power movement. Upon his return to Nigeria, he used his music to express his political views which were not popular with the government, resulting in the government raiding his compound, severely beating Fela and causing the death of his mother.
|my autographed playbill from Broadway|
January 29, 2010
The production makes good use of videos and photos projected onto the walls of the theater, as well as lighting that extends into the audience. Marina Draghici won a Tony for the costumes of FELA!, and deservedly so. They're a really cool mix of traditional African and 70s hippie style, and most importantly, they allow the dancers to move. The women wear fringed skirts that are never still, and the men wear 70s plaid pants and open (or no) shirts. Fela himself dresses in elaborate pastel pantsuits. Another Tony-winner from this show is Bill T. Jones for choreography. He also also co-created and co-wrote the show (with Jim Lewis), and directs the show (and he won a Tony for the choreography of Spring Awakening, so different but equally striking).
Words are not adequate to describe the music and dance of FELA!, so here's a look at their Tony Awards performance two years ago, featuring Sahr as Fela and much of the same cast that's currently in St. Paul. Only three performances remain before they pack up and head to NYC, so act fast!