Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fela! Review & Fela! On Tour-Afrobeat Orchestra Tonight At Lincoln Hall

Saturday, April 07 2012 10:00 PM
21+ $16.00
($18.00 Door)

ChiIL Live Shows was there for opening night of Fela! in Chicago at Oriental Theatre and we were blown away by the passion, the politics and the power of this Broadway Musical!  Tonight, you can hear the music Fela! is famous for, with members of the cast, The Fela Band and Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra.    We'll be there to shoot the Lincoln Hall show tonight.   Lincoln Hall is 21+.   For the musical at Oriental Theatre, parents are strongly cautioned due to mature themes, political violence, drug use, and language.   The historical and political story of Fela! makes this musical a worthy "must see" for older teens and adults.

The sheer spectacle of the colorful costumes, choreography, phenomenal acting, and superior set design all contribute to make a lasting impression.  The wrenching drama of this oppression story is still timely today.  Fela's history is a story that should not be forgotten, told with such passion and joyful dance that patrons will hardly realize they're learning.   We particularly loved the execution of the dream scene, where Fela! visits his dead mother to seek her wisdom.

Fela! the Musical is playing at The Oriental Theatre through April 15th.   Highly recommended, whether you're a Fela fan or a newbie to the Afrobeat scene! 

FELA!, the joyous dance, theater, music spectacle, has thrilled audiences in three continents. The Tony Award® winner, directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones explores the extravagant world of Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti. FELA! comes to Chicago's Oriental Theater following its sold-out run at London's prestigious National Theatre where The Guardian's Michael Billington exclaimed, "It breaks down conventional barriers between stage and auditorium and joins passion and politics. The dancing is ecstatic, the music lifts the spirits, and the stage is alive with movement." After Ben Brantley of the New York Times raved, "There should be dancing in the streets!" Bill T. Jones earned a Tony Award® for Best Choreographer. He was also given the Astaire Award and received a 2010 Kennedy Center Honor along with Oprah Winfrey.

Ticket prices are $25 to $90.

Groups of 15 or more, now on sale!

Call 312-977-1710 or click here for tickets.

FELA!, the most critically acclaimed musical of the season, received three 2010 Tony Awards®: Best Choreography, Best Costume Design for a Musical and Best Sound Design of a Musical! His story inspired a nation. His music inspires the world. FELA! tells the true story of the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, whose soulful Afrobeat rhythms ignited a generation. Motivated 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! is a triumphant tale of courage, passion and love, featuring Fela Kuti’s captivating music and the visionary direction and choreography of Tony Award® winner Bill T. Jones. 

Fela! first came to life in 2000 when New Yorker, Stephen Hendel, stumbled across a CD of the Nigerian firebrand, iconoclast, rabble-rouser and composer of genius, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. He was so impressed with the music and with Fela’s keen sense of social justice that he determined to create a theatre piece expressing the timeless and universal message contained in how Fela committed his gift as a voice for the disenfranchised.

In 2004 Steve Hendel joined forces with Tony Award-winning choreographer, Bill T Jones, who he invited to direct the play. Bill then brought in writer Jim Lewis and together the three set about mounting a series of workshops, involving musicians, actors, dancers and technicians. It soon became clear that attempting to compress the entirety of Fela’s turbulent and event-filled life into a stage play was impossible. They elected to create a painting; an ode to determination and truth to power by concentrating on one short, highly-charged period during the late seventies, using it as a vehicle through which to present a prime example of commitment and courage and art used as an expression of human dignity.

Fela had used his extraordinary big-band music as a medium in which he created biting, satirical diatribes against the excesses of successive military regimes in his native Nigeria. Any form of injustice, oppression, mismanagement, corruption was fearlessly and ferociously attacked, using eloquent harangues that specifically named the perpetrators.
He had paid a steep price for his bravery in the face of powerful and implacable enemies, with 200 arrests and countless beatings that left scars all over his body. But even these beatings didn’t stop him. “Ah well, they didn’t kill me”, he would proclaim as he wrote yet another acerbic lyric and gave inflammatory quotes to the press.

Fela died in August 1997. AIDS, they said, but as far as those close to him were concerned, he died of one beating too many. He was a giant of a man, but a man nevertheless. The system can only take so much. One million people attended his funeral.

His legacy was a testament of incredible courage, together with almost 50 albums of music that are now available globally through Knitting Factory Records. His message of transparency, honest government and justice for all is still as relevant today as when it was when first released 4 decades ago — not just in Nigeria but globally.
Inspired by Fela’s courage and incredible musical mastery, it nevertheless took two years of development for the creative and technical team to reach the stage where they were ready to begin mounting the piece Off-Broadway at a New York theatre complex, 37 Arts.

They spent three months at 37 Arts perfecting the production before they were ready to open “Fela! The Musical”. The show was an immediate and unmitigated critical and public success. Celebrities flocked to see the show; Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Christine Amanpour, Charlize Theron, and countless others. The decision was taken to go to Broadway.

With the blessings of the Kuti family, in 2009 the show opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre and with Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Will & Jada Pinkett-Smith coming on board as Producers, over the next 15 months, played to half a million people. Celebrities kept coming; Madonna, Denzel Washington, Ben Stiller, Mick Jagger, Sting, Harry Belafonte, Spike Lee (8 times!) Kofi Annan and Michelle Obama, to name but a few. 

The show received 11 Tony nominations and three Tony Awards for Best Choreography, Best Costumes and Best Sound. In 2010, whilst still on Broadway, a second company was formed to present a sold-out season of performances at London’s prestigious Royal National Theatre.

Since its 15 month Tony Award-winning run on Broadway an amalgam company was created from members of the American and European casts. Audiences in their many hundreds of thousands on both sides of the Atlantic, including a triumphal series of performances in Fela’s beloved Lagos, have risen to their feet in admiration of the play’s ethos and execution. We would be surprised if you would not do the same.

The show is currently on tour in the United States. Visit to see the tour schedule. Don’t miss it!

Notable Quotes

“THE HOT (AND SERIOUSLY COOL) ENERGY that comes from the musical gospel preached by the title character of FELA! Feels as if it could stretch easily to the borders of Manhattan and then across a river or two. There should be dancing in the streets!”
“FELA! Is as rowdy as it is rousing. (It) is one of the most ORIGINAL and EXCITING shows to come around in a long while.”
“A great humane and transcendental fable come to life, with everything “fable” implies; MYTHIC, FABULOUS and a supreme lesson in living, here supplied magisterially by choreographer BILL T. JONES and his star, SAHR NGAUJAH.”
“FIVE STARS (out of five) FELA! Is more than a musical…an ECSTATIC PHENOMENON.”
“BILL T. JONES wildly loose-limbed journey into the throbbing heart of Afrobeat BREAKS BOLD NEW GROUND IN MUSICAL THEATRE.”
“There’s enough energy in the first act of FELA! to short circuit Con Ed. It spills over from the stage and into the orchestra seats. BOUNDLESS AND JOYOUS: This is as close as Broadway gets to fully immersive theatre.”

MALARIA is THE leading cause of death in South Sudan among children under 5.   Broadway is teaming up with The United Nations' NothingButNets.Net to get the word out and send life-saving bed nets to protect refugee families fleeing conflict.   To date, Nothing But Nets has raised over $40 million to distribute more than 6 million nets to families throughout Africa.   Check out their site to learn more and donate today!   April 25th is World Malaria Day.   Help families sleep safely.   Send a net and save a life!


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