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Posted by:  Kimmel Center on March 22, 2012

by Stef Rozinsky (

Triple Tony Award Winning musical “FELA!” is playing now at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.  This show, by Director, Co-Creator, Choreographer and Book Writer Bill T. Jones, and produced by Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Ruth Hendel and Stephen Hendel (also co-creator) is a hit!  Both educational and inspirational, it is based on a true story of Fela Anikulapo Kuti (1938-1997), the creator of “Afrobeat” music and a political and social activist in his native home of Nigeria.  Fela’s dedication to a country, whose military regime arrested him more than 200 times, harassed and brutalized him and his family on a continual basis is heroic.  The story is fascinating, creating emotion which will bring any human being to tears.  At the same time, the show is fun and engaging, calling for audience participation in learning the dance steps to answer the question “What time is it?” using only dance moves to answer.  As Stephen Hendel accurately states, “…when you have an all-black cast, people say, ‘this is a black show’.  It’s not a black show.  It’s a human show based on a historical figure who happened to be Nigerian.  The reality is that if you open your mind and heart to it, and you’re not a racist, we have a show that will be transformative.” 

Adesola Osakalumi played Fela brilliantly, with special accolades going to Melanie Marshall who played Funmilayo, Fela’s mother.  Marshall’s operatic vocals were mesmerizing, as were those of Ismael Kouyate (Ismael).  The music and dance were compelling, and the costumes were vibrant.  This show is one not to miss but should be seen only by mature audiences due to language and some mature topics.

Melanie Marshall and Sahr Ngaujah, Photo by Tristram Kenton

You can still see FELA! through this Sunday (25 Mar). Tix and Info.

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