After 14 months run at the Broadway and London’s Royal National Theatre, FELA! succeeded in turning all its critics to fans but the crew admitted after meeting the press in Nigeria that they were yet to meet their toughest critics ever.
Bent on proving to Nigerians amongst whom Fela lived and died that they know Fela as much as any other Nigerian, the FELA! cast took on the concert space of the The New Afrika Shrine on Thursday night, 14th April, 2011, and presented a tribute concert version of the show.
Devoted Fela fans in their numbers gathered together at the shrine under the breeze of spinning ceiling fans in this steamy warehouse-like club, and fully convinced the FELA! cast knows the ways of Fela, they excitedly filmed the production on their camera phones as the smell of marijuana wafted through the air.
The performance of the FELA! cast earned rave reviews from Kuti's children, and Femi Kuti joined the cast onstage on his saxophone for an encore. "Now that you have been to the Shrine, I'm sure my father has blessed you," he said.
"It means more to us than you can possibly imagine to be here and share this moment with you," Sahr Ngaujah, who earned a Tony nomination in the title role on Broadway, told the crowd. He also wished the Nigerians luck with the presidential election set for Saturday.
The Thursday night event was a tip of what is to be expected at the at the prestigious Eko Hotel’s New Expo Centre from April 21 to April 25. The expo hall of Eko Hotel is been reconstructed to look like the Broadway theatre in New York and the build up of publicity on the show has greatly increased the sale of tickets.
FELA!, an original Broadway musical produced by Shawn ‘JayZ’ Carter and Will Smith and directed by Bill T. Jones tells the true story of the legendary Nigerian musician whose soulful Afrobeat rhythms and cutting lyrics ignited the spirit of empowerment and cultural awareness in a generation.
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