Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fela! is Occupy Wall Street Put to Music

Fela, the Tony award winning Broadway sensation, arrived at the Academy of Music last night. Fela! is the story of Nigerian musician turned politician Fela Kuti. He invented Afro Beat music, a catchy blend of jazz, African drums, psychedelic rock, and funk now globally rocked to.When he was not making music, he was busy railing against the corrupt entities in Nigeria. Fela offers a poignant reminder of how western corporations such as AIG, News Corp, BP and Halliburton have robbed the African people of their birthright. Unfortunately, the story resonates today except that the bad apples are named Bank of America and Wells Fargo and the people being robbed is us.

In the immigration debate, we often forget how hard life is in other countries. Fela! reminds us. While most of us spend our time going to BYOB parties, the Nigerians often attend BYOC (Bring Your Own Coffin) funerals.

Adesola Oskalumi, who played Fela with verve, was on stage almost all of the 2 1/2 hours of the show. He cajoled the audience to sing and not just to dance but to swivel their hips Elvis style. Not sitting in the first row, I could not get a whiff of the pot that he was smoking. What a shame!

Kudos to Matt Wolf of the Kimmel Center for bringing the show to Philadelphia. If his boss, Kimmel Center CEO Ann Ewers, wonders where he is this morning, he was hitting the dance floor at the cast party pretty hard.

Steve Hendel is the Clark Kent of producers- mild mannered energy trader by day and glamorous Tony award winning Broadway producer at night. He was able to persuade Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Jay-Z and Beyonce to be producers of this show. He threw a great cast party last night at Fluid. I saw two shows last night - one on the Academy stage and the other on Fluid's dance floor.

The producers-Steve Hendel and Edward Tyler Nahem came down from New York 

Steve Hendel and Adesola Osakulumi, who played Fela brilliantly

Cast members

Cast members

Kimmel Center's Matt Wolf