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.

This is the Eugene O'Neil Theatre where I played "33 Variatiuons"--transformed into a combination of Nigerian activist history and Fela's Shrine. I'd never seen a theatre that transformed. There were images of African leaders, Malcolm X, Dr King and others

Sahr Ngaujah, who plays Fela, and me

With members of the band

With one of the dancers and drummers

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  1. Miss Fonda, may I say you look absolutely wonderful. I have just stumbled upon your blog and I am in awe of it. It’s not the blog of a huge star rambling about themselves, it’s an intelligent collection of life experiences and observations of a beautiful, strong and independent women and something for others to aspire to. I am a huge fan of your work and look forward to seeing your next project. I hope that doesn’t sound too much of a suck up! but your work has moved me tears and made me laugh out loud in equal measure and being presented with this opportunity I feel it only good manners to pay some respect. Thank you, James

  2. Jane —

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and want you to know it inspires me just about every time I read it. I’m 54 and my goal when I am your age is to be as vivacious and open of heart and mind as you are.

    Today when I read your entry about your yoga class I felt inspired to let other people know how much your blog lifts me up and I wrote an entry in my own blog, ThinkLady, about you, entitled “The Tao of Jane.” Thank you for being who you are, for the work you do for the common good!

    Many blessings —


  3. Ms. Fonda, I’ve been waiting all day for this post! My mom and I were at the same performance of Fela as you; we were thrilled to see you and wished we had had a moment to say hello. I agree with your comments on Fela, anyone who has a chance to see it, should; it was spectacular. Part of the reason we went was that Bill T. Jones went to the same high school I and also where my mother was a teacher – always a delight to see such amazing success out of my small home town.

    Thanks for the great post and wonderful pictures of the theatre and cast. I must say, I wish I had been at your yoga session this weekend too!


  4. Fela Anikulapo Kuti was arrested more than two hundred times in his life, one can see why.
    I have a friend for many years now ,a Dr. Hillary O. Onyeche runs International student advisory center for international education at the University. Dr. Onyeche is from Nigeria,and most interesting of friends. Being a student of International business, I have become interested in the Nigerian problems and history, a good subject area. Fela enjoyed playing the saxophone wearing nothing more than a pair of Y-fronts, surrounded by his 27 wives like a superb African emperor. A true legend in African music, Fela is famous for both his musical genius and his very strong political standpoints. I’m sure that must have be a very good experience. Nigeria is a good subject, it shows what oil and Early British Imperialism will do. Nigeria would have fared better if not for Western imperialist pretensions.

  5. WOW! What a pretty dress you have on Jane. Excellent taste.

  6. Visiting from Arizona (although lately, we are telling everyone we are from New Mexico:)), we also were in the audience on Sunday afternoon to see Fela. It was one of the best shows we have seen. We are recommending it to everyone we know who will visit New York with a “must see”.
    The entire cast was fabulous and the dancing incredible. One of the ensemble dancers, I believe, Iris Wilson, was notably fantastic!

    We happened to be seated in the audience across the aisle from Jane Fonda and Richard Perry, so being “typical tourists”, it added a lot more fun to our few hours in the O’Neill Theater.

    We hope the show will continue to be very successful.

  7. Jane

    Love your outfit & your way of promoting the arts. The stage looks Magnificent! I will have to put Fela on my list now that I’m able to sit again.
    All the pix are great but the picture of you and Richard with some of the cast is quite lovely.
    Thank You for giving us a glimpse of the show
    Stay Blessed

  8. Dear Jane: My name is Rosie Smythe and I live in Toronto and run a women’s agency. I sat right behind you for the performance of Fela but did not want to disturb you. You look beautiful. I was mesmorized and thrilled to see you and just love you. I want you to know that my friend Paullette whom I was with have been indebted to you for many years for our love of fitness and your dedication to women’s self esteem. We were thrilled to be with you in seeing such a wonderful performance of this show. So happy to see you so well and still so full of life and wonder. You are an insperation to women. Happy to see you in love too. Take care Jane and keep going forward, you are one fantastic woman.

    Love & respect,

    Rosie Smythe
    Toronto, Canada

  9. as always miss jane, you look lovely. god bless.

  10. What a wonderful experience!

  11. Hi, Jane:

    Have been very busy lately, so just settling back into your blog after a bit of a hiatus–and HAD to write to say how glad I am you’ve seen “Fela!” I thought the show was extraordinary, and Sahr Ngaujah’s performance truly stunning; his energy could single-handedly light up Times Square for hours! And I hope you got to see Lillias White, who was equally stunning playing Fela Kuti’s mother.

    Looking forward to seeing your new films!

    -Tom Lee

  12. i’m a client of ms. smythe’s agency .

    fan letters . oh brother .

  13. ms. smythe’s agency for women is a soup kitchen for welfare types she boots ME out of all the time have a nice day .

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