Ordway Center for the Performing Arts presents "FELA!," the recipient of three 2010 Tony Awards, as part of the Ordway's 2011-2012 Theater Season. "FELA!" is "a provocative hybrid of dance, theater and music exploring the extravagant world of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti."
A triumphant tale of courage, passion and love, "FELA!" is the true story of Kuti, famously known for creating the Afrobeat musical genre. Kuti mixed pounding eclectic rhythms (a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies) with incendiary lyrics, which he used to openly attack the corrupt and oppressive military dictatorships ruling Nigeria and much of Africa. Featuring many of Kuti's most captivating songs and the visionary staging of decorated choreographer Bill T. Jones, "FELA!" reveals Kuti's controversial life as an artist and political activist and celebrates his pioneering music.
Olivier and Tony Award-nominated actor Sahr Ngaujah will lead the cast of "FELA!" He is joined by Melanie Marshall and Paulette Ivory, who co-starred with Ngaujah in the Olivier-nominated Royal National Theatre production.
"FELA!" is directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, with a book by Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones, and music and lyrics by Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Conceived by Bill T. Jones, Jim Lewis and Stephen Hendel, the design and Tony Award-winning costumes are by Marina Draghici, lighting design by Robert Wierzel and the Tony Award-winning sound design by Robert Kaplowitz.
"FELA!" received its world premiere Off-Broadway in September 2008, and won the Lucille Lortel Award for best musical, before transferring to Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theatre in November 2009 where its accolades included three 2010 Tony Awards-for best choreography, best costume design, best sound design-and an Astaire Award for Bill T. Jones' choreography.
Critics around the country were effusive in their praise. The kinetic energy pulsing from the music and dancing of "FELA!" prompted Ben Brantley of The New York Times to say "There should be dancing in the streets." Peter Marks of The Washington Post described it as "electroshock for the soul" and Charles McNulty added in The Los Angeles Times that "FELA!" was "the most exuberant musical I've seen this season."
"FELA!" is produced in association with Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, Will & Jada Pinkett Smith, Ruth & Stephen Hendel, Roy Gabay, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Edward Tyler Nahem, SlavaSmolokowski, Chip Meyrelles/Ken Greiner, Douglas G. Smith, Steve Semlitz/Cathy Glazer, Daryl Roth/True Love Productions, Susan Dietz/Mort Swinsky, Knitting Factory Entertainment and with Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson.