Though it helps to know about the background of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti it certainly won’t take away from the enjoyment of the show. Adesola Osakalumi, playing the title role, is a dynamo of a performer who sings, dances, acts and plays the saxaphone, doing all with such verve and energy that everyone else on stage disappears though this is not a cast that is lacking in any aspect of talent. This ensemble of 30 seems almost inexhaustible and just when you think they can’t do another step, beat another drum, sing another song, they are there flying around on the stage as if it was the first number.
Originally directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, and overseen by the tour director and choreographer Maija Garcia, the cast are put through their steps and those steps embrace Fela’s introduction of Afrobeat to the music world which included music from many countries with the basic African drums. The music and lyrics are raw starting with his defining the movements of clocks and time to sex. Fela showed the world how to shake their booty and this cast certainly knows how to do that along with a lot more.
Fela Anikulapo-Kuti used his music to express his rage against the Nigerian government and, consequently, was jailed and beaten over 200 times and saw his mother thrown to her death from a window when their house was raided. The story by Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones is ‘inspired’ by the authorized biography “Fela: This Bitch of a Life” by Carlos Moore. The story, though told in basic form, is a little difficult to follow due to white on white captions projected on a screen on the back wall and in some cases in type too small to read or accents distorting the lyrics. This taste of Fela makes you want to know all about a man you may not know or may think you know.
As already mentioned Adesola Osakalumi commands the stage from the opening number to the last curtain call except for one number when he rests his head on his mother’s lap. The mother, played by Melanie Marshall, sings a song that evokes Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba and all those that fought with their voices for the Rights of others. Marshall takes charge of the stage, and the song, mesmerizing the audience to a point that it seemed at one point not a person in the auditorium was breathing until she let the last note out of her throat.
Everyone in the cast works hard to win you over and they do, from their first ensemble number which takes you the The Shrine, operated by Fela, where they will be giving their last performance. Don’t miss this ‘last’ performance.
Act 1: an hour and 5 minutes Intermission: 20 minutes Second Act: one hour
Strobe lights aimed directly at audience many times
Tour Dates: Cleveland, Ohio April 2-4, Buffalo, NY April 5-6 Los Angeles, Ca April 25-May 5
Coming next to the Arsht Center: “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” April 2-7, 2013