Tonight I finally got to see Fela! the musical on Broadway, after hearing rave reviews from so many other people who had seen it. It was totally worth the hype.
Fela! is a lushly created musical production depicting through speech, song, drum, and dance the true story of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, a musician and activist in Nigeria. The production is truly transporting, beginning and ending in "The Shrine" night club that Fela presided over in Lagos.
The principal actor (there are actually two who alternate playing Fela, Sahr Ngaujah and Kevin Mambo) powerfully inhabited the role of this talented and charismatic musician. Dominating every scene of the two hour production, he exuded a self-assurance and an infectious energy that carried the whole show.
He was ably assisted by a top notch cast of musicians, dancers, and singers. The African dancing alone was worth seeing the show. I haven't seen a stage production since "Bring on the Noize, Bring on the Funk" where the dancing was so thoroughly integrated with the plot of the show. And I've never seen African dance used to express so many different emotions and moods, from joyful abandon to sexual playfulness to sorrow and anger.
The story of Fela is a legendary and inspiring one. It's a tale of struggle against autocracy and corruption using the powerful weapon of music. It's about one man fighting for his art and his music that inspired a nation and a continent. As an activist, it helped me to believe again in the importance of culture and art as means of political and social change. That was worth the price of admission right there.
See it, if you get the chance.