FELA! the hit Broadway musical about the life and music of the late Nigerian artiste and political activist, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, is scheduled to be staged in Lagos State, southwest Nigeria, making it the first Broadway show to be staged in sub-Saharan Africa.

FELA!, the landmark Broadway musical, which won three Tony Awards (Broadway’s highest honour) including Best Choreography (Bill T. Jones), is coming to Lagos from 20-25 April.

P.M.NEWS gathered that the Broadway musical will be staged at the New Expo Centre, Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.

This musical will star its original Broadway cast with Sahr Ngaujah in the role of Fela Kuti with music provided by internationally renowned Antibalas as well as other members of the New York City Afro-beat community.

Concurrently with the Broadway production, FELA! opened at London’s Royal National Theatre for a three-month sold-out run. That production was nominated for three Olivier Awards, London theatre’s highest honour, including Best Musical, Best Actor (Sahr Ngaujah) and Best Choreography (Bill T. Jones).

The Nigerian engagement will be the first since the closing of the Broadway and London productions and the NTLive performance which was broadcast to in 370 cinemas worldwide.

The aim of FELA! in Lagos is to unite and connect Africans in spirit and unity, to serve as a catalyst for cultural revival in Nigeria, and to celebrate Fela Kuti, for the contributions he has made to Nigeria and the world.

FELA! depicts the true story of the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, whose soulful Afro beat rhythms ignited the spirit of empowerment and cultural awareness in a generation. It is a tale of courage, passion and love featuring Kuti’s captivating music and the visionary direction and choreography of Tony Award winner, Bill T.Jones.

FELA! in Lagos is being produced by a Nigerian production company, Broken Shackles in conjunction with Lagos State Government. Upon its Broadway opening Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote: “There should be dancing in the streets. The hot (and seriously cool) energy that comes from the musical gospel preached by the title character of FELA! feels as if it could stretch easily to the borders of Manhattan and then across a river or two. There has never been anything on Broadway like this production.”

The New York Post’s Elisabeth Vincentelli cheered, “There’s enough energy to short circuit Con Ed.”

David Cote of Time Out New York, in giving it 5 stars (out of 5) raved, “FELA! is more than a musical; it’s an ecstatic phenomenon.” And Jennifer Farrar of the Associated Press exclaimed, “An exuberant celebration!”

The English critics were equally effusive after the London premiere of FELA! One critic, Baz Bamigboye of The Daily Mail, summed up the critical sentiment with his review saying FELA! is a “ground breaking show that shook Broadway and London’s Royal National Theatre to the rafters.

Getting Brits to get on their feet and ‘get loose’ as Bill T.Jones puts it, was a rare feat. FELA! pulled it off by sheer exuberance and theatrical showmanship. At the same time, FELA! explored the soul of an artiste and the darkness of a government that tried to block what Fela’s beam exposed.”

In addition to rave reviews from critics, FELA! has also won numerous awards and received standing ovation from such personalities as Mick Jagger, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Spike Lee, Ben Okri, Janet Jackson, Denzel Washington, Professor Wole Soyinka, Robert De Niro and Hugh Jackman.

First lady Michelle Obama, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and President Obama’s Head of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano are but three of the dignitaries who have embraced this show.

FELA! on Broadway was conceived by Bill T. Jones, Jim Lewis and Stephen Hendel. Its producers include the entertainment legends Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Will & Jada Pinkett Smith.

A spokeswoman for Broken Shackles suggests that “with a series of media partners and sponsorship, FELA! in Lagos will be the most talked about show in Nigeria for years to come.”

—Funsho Arogundade

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