White, a Tony winner for The Life, will portray Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the mother of the legendary African composer and performer Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. As previously reported, Sahr Ngaujah, who starred in the title role Off-Broadway, will again star on Broadway. Opening night is set for Nov. 23.
Lillias White has appeared on Broadway in Barnum, Dreamgirls, Cats, Once On This Island, How To Succeed In Business…, Chicago and the Actors' Fund concert of Dreamgirls, which was preserved on disc. Her screen appearances include "Pieces of April," "Game Six," as well as "Sesame Street," "Law & Order: SVU" and the PBS "Great Performances" telecast of South Pacific.
Additional casting will be announced shortly.
Tony-winning Spring Awakening choreographer Bill T. Jones directs and choreographs the production that will feature Antibalas and other members of the NYC Afrobeat community, under the direction of Aaron Johnson, performing Kuti's music live onstage.
The musical played an acclaimed engagement at the now-closed 37 Arts in 2008. 37 Arts was also the birthplace of the Tony-winning musical In the Heights. Fela! features a book by Jones and Jim Lewis and utilizes Kuti's own music. Lewis, a Tony nominee for Chronicle of a Death Foretold, also penned additional lyrics. The musical was conceived by Bill T. Jones, Jim Lewis and Stephen Hendel.
In Fela!, press notes state, "audiences are welcomed into the extravagant, decadent and rebellious world of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Using his pioneering music (a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies), [the musical] explores Kuti's controversial life as artist, political activist and revolutionary musician."
The design team comprises scenic and costume designer Marina Draghici, lighting designer Rob Wierzel, sound designer Rob Kaplowitz and projection designer Peter Nigrini. Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean will provide musical arrangements.