London's National Theatre to Produce Fela!; Ngaujah and Mambo Will Star

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18 Mar 2010

<I>Fela!</I> star Sahr Ngaujah
Fela! star Sahr Ngaujah
Photo by Monique Carboni

Broadway's Fela!, the new Broadway musical set to the music of Afrobeat musician and political figure Fela Anikulapo Kuti, will be produced in London by the National Theatre.

Fela! will begin performances at the National's Olivier Theatre Nov. 6 and officially open Nov. 16. The musical will run in repertory with Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Tony-winning choreographer Bill T. Jones, who also directed and co-conceived the musical, will repeat his duties for the London run that will feature Broadway cast members Sahr Ngaujah and Kevin Mambo (who alternate in the title role on Broadway).

Representatives for Fela! told Playbill.com that Ngauhjah will open the London production, while Mambo will remain with the Broadway cast. Subsequently, Mambo will take over in London, and Ngauhjah will rejoin the Broadway run. The remainder of the National cast will be British.

After an acclaimed run Off-Broadway in 2008, Fela! began previews on Broadway Oct. 19 and officially opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Nov. 23.



In Fela!, according to production notes, "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 Broadway design team includes 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.

Fela! is produced by Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, Will & Jada Pinkett Smith, Ruth & Stephen Hendel, Roy Gabay, Edward Tyler Nahem, Slava Smolokowski, Chip Meyrelles/Ken Greiner, Steve Semlitz/Cathy Glazer, Daryl Roth/True Love Productions, Knitting Factory Entertainment and Susan Dietz. In association with Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson.