Kuti’s seeing the show was significant for a few reasons. Not only is he the son of the musical’s subject – musician, Afrobeat founder and political activist Fela Kuti – but he had also previously said he would not see the musical version of his father’s life until the show’s producers guaranteed it would be performed in Lagos, Nigeria, which was Fela’s musical and political home base and which provides the show’s setting.
The Times reports that Kuti came to New York July 10, after performing a show in Philadelphia, and watched the World Cup finals with Fela! producer Stephen Hendel, who promised him the production would indeed perform in Lagos. Hendel attended the show with Kuti the night of the 13th.
An emotional Kuti told the Times, “I’ve been crying. It takes me way back … It’s an excellent play.” He joined the cast on stage after the performance, making a plea for African solidarity, embracing the show’s stars, Sahr Ngaujah (who plays his father) and Lillias White (who plays his grandmother, activist Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti), and even singing a few bars with Ngaujah.
He also said to the Times, “Americans are seeing the story. Nigerians should be seeing the story, too.”
— Thomas Peter