The Beat Goes On: Producers Confirm That Fela! Will Tour

News   The Beat Goes On: Producers Confirm That Fela! Will Tour
The producers of Fela!, the potently rhythmic theatrical portrait of Nigerian performer-songwriter-activist Fela Kuti, officially announced plans for a domestic and international tour of the Tony Award-nominated production. It will launch in fall 2011.
Fela! star Sahr Ngaujah
Fela! star Sahr Ngaujah Photo by Monique Carboni

The musical has been nominated for 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Creator-director-choreographer Bill T. Jones had talked about tour hopes in recent days; this official announcement came on May 10.

Lead producer Stephen Hendel is working with CAMI Spectrum's Margaret Selby in association with CAMI Theatricals' Gary McAvay to book the tour in the following U.S. cities: Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tempe, AZ, and Washington. International engagements in Amsterdam, Melbourne, Paris, Rotterdam, Sydney and Toronto will also be scheduled. Specific dates have not been announced.

This U.S. and world tour of Fela! is in addition to the previously announced special engagement at London's National Theatre in November 2010 (beginning performances on Nov. 6 and opening Nov. 16), marking the first time The National has ever presented a currently running Broadway show on its prestigious Olivier stage.

"Fela! is one of the most exhilarating experiences I have ever had in the theatre, and it will be a thrilling experience to bring it to the National," stated Nicholas Hytner, artistic director for The National Theatre.

Producer Hendel stated, "We created Fela! to play to people of all ages and backgrounds everywhere. It is a show ultimately about the human spirit and what we are capable of standing for and achieving. Our intent has always been to have this immensely entertaining show seen all over the United States and the world." Producers Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith said in a May 10 statement, "We are honored to be presenting this wonderful production and are thrilled that audiences throughout the United States and the world will have the opportunity to enjoy it."

The original Broadway cast album of Fela! will be released on June 8.

Bill T. Jones conceived, directed, choreographed and co-authored the show. He Tony-nominated for Best Choreography, Book and Direction. Here's how the producers characterize the show: "His story inspired a nation. His music inspired the world. Fela! is the true story of the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, whose soulful Afrobeat rhythms ignited a generation. Inspired by his mother, a civil rights champion, he defied a corrupt and oppressive military government and devoted his life and music to the struggle for freedom and human dignity." Fela!, a "tale of courage, passion and love," features Fela Kuti's music.

Fela! earned Tony nominations for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones), Best Actor (Sahr Nguajah), Best Featured Actress (Lillias White), Best Choreography (Jones), Best Direction (Jones), Best Orchestrations (Aaron Johnson), Best Scenic Design (Marina Draghici), Best Costume Design (Marina Draghici), Best Lighting Design (Robert Wierzel) and Best Sound Design (Robert Kaplowitz).

Fela! began performances at Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theatre (230 W. 49th Street) on Oct. 19, 2009, and opened to strong reviews on Nov. 23. It is produced by Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, Will & Jada Pinkett Smith, Ruth & Stephen Hendel, Roy Gabay, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Edward Tyler Nahem, Slava Smolokowski, Chip Meyrelles/Ken Greiner, Douglas G. Smith, Steve Semlitz/Cathy Glazer, Daryl Roth/True Love Productions, Susan Dietz/Mort Swinsky, and Knitting Factory Entertainment. In association with Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson.

Visit www.felaonbroadway.

The cast of <i>Fela!</i>
The cast of Fela! Photo by Monique Carboni
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