First Lady Michelle Obama Attends Broadway's Fela!
By Andrew Gans
First Lady Michelle Obama attended the Nov. 18 performance of the award-winning musical Fela!, a show spokesperson confirmed to Playbill.com.
Mrs. Obama was accompanied by five friends and numerous Secret Service agents.
The First Family had brought a bright spotlight to Broadway last spring: On March 21, the Obamas (minus President Barack Obama) attended the matinee of Memphis at the Shubert Theatre, and on March 22 they took in the 8 PM preview of the musical The Addams Family at the Lunt-Fontanne.
The First Lady and daughters Sasha and Malia also attended the July 1 performance of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's hit musical Mary Poppins at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
The First Couple had also previously taken in the revival of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone.
Fela!, the new musical based on the life and music of groundbreaking African composer Fela Anikulapo Kuti, plays the Eugene O'Neill Theatre and is scheduled to conclude its run Jan. 2, 2011. The cast currently features Grammy winner Patti LaBelle.
After an acclaimed run Off-Broadway in 2008, Fela! began previews on Broadway Oct. 19, 2009.
Tony-winning Spring Awakening choreographer Bill T. Jones directs and choreographs the production that features a book by Jones and Jim Lewis and utilizes Anikulapo-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.
The production incorporates the Afrobeat orchestra Antibalas and other members of the NYC Afrobeat community, under the direction of Aaron Johnson, who perform Kuti's music live onstage.
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 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.
The musical, which earned the 2008 Lucille Lortel honor for Best 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! 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.
Fela! won three 2010 Tony Awards: Best Costume Design, Best Sound Design and Best Choreography.
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