Yesterday I went with Richard, Patti Bosworth, composer and keyboardist, Ray Leslee, to see the matinee of the hit Broadway musical, “Fela”. It was at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre where I played “33 Variations” and it was exciting to come back in the audience this time and not on stage. Fela is a powerful musical about the life of Nigerian singer, musician and activist, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. It’s a true story and it is exciting to watch and moving to experience. After traveling around the world, Fela created a new kind of music—Afrobeat and I loved it so much I bought 6 CDs to give to friends. It makes you want to dance and the lyrics are radical.
Fela would perform in Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, at his club called The Shrine. From the stage he would not only sing his music, dance and play instruments. He would also attack the corrupt and repressive military dictatorships that rule Nigeria. For this, he and members of his dancing ensemble would too often be arrested, taken to prison and raped and tortured.
The dancing was the most amazing and unique I’ve ever seen, choreographed by Bill T. Jones who also conceived of the play and directed it.
The actor who played Fela was Sahr Ngaujah. He was beyond amazing in every way—as a dancer, singer, actor and musician. I was stunned to learn afterwards when we went back stage to meet the cast, that he was in Atlanta, part of the Freddie Hendricks Youth Ensemble when I worked with Freddie and his actors back in the 1990s. Freddie worked with high schoolers and used drama and music as a means of youth development—and fine theatre. They performed at some of my G-CAPP conferences and==at my 60th birthday party!!!! I couldn’t believe this man who I had seen as a kid had grown into such a stellar artist. Another member of the dancer ensemble, Saycon Sengbloh, was also part of Freddie’s Ensemble and performed at my birthday.
I should have taken pictures with Linda Marvel who was stage managing and who also did “33 Variations” and Heather who did my wigs for that play and has her hands full with the numerous wigs in Fela. How great to see everyone again, the box office crew, the ushers, the much tattooed stage door manager.
It was a wonderful afternoon!! See the play if you can.