Last night, I put on my LBD (little black dress), pearls, black pumps and a touch of red lipstick and I was off to the Shakespeare Theater.
As I arrived to the theater and picked up my ticket from will call, I was ready…Ready to experience the musical FELA! It was the story of man who’s music changed the world and who’s spirit changed Nigeria! His story also became this amazing musical production that I saw last night and it was just….no words can even describe it.
Everything from the music, the costumes, the performers and ah, the dancing were just exceptional, amazing, breathtaking, phenomenal and more. It was one of those performances and productions that had you moving in your seats, singing along to the songs and wondering which part of the stage do I look at? With so many elements on the stage, it was so hard to figure where to look because so much was happening and I loved that! I appreciate it when a director will make the movement not only unique and dynamic but in multiple places — I love that!
And then that wasn’t enough, there was more. Most musicals have a live band in the orchestra, not FELA. Their band and Nigeria sounds came from the stage because they were a part of the set and let me tell you that made the sound so organic and real because we saw them and heard them and felt their musical vibes throughout the theater.
Then just when I thought they that was it, they started using a few video clips and projections throughout the show to add yet another layer to production. But one of the things that I enjoyed the most was the audience interaction.
Now, I’ve been blessed to be able to see not one, not two, not three but several Broadway productions (not on Broadway in New York but still I’ve seen a few in my day) and this was the first time that I was at a musical and we actually interacted with the performers. And it wasn’t just a “call and response” type thing. It was “Ok, now everybody get up out your seats!” and literally the whole theater was out of their seats and we were all learning how to tell time. Don’t get it, just imagine a clock and all the times, 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, etc. Well Fela wanted us to tell time with our hips and it was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen in a theater but it great. It was a lot of fun to get up and dance in the theater with the performers…of course, none of our hips were moving like those dancers on stage.
Matter of fact, that was truly one of the biggest highlights for me! As a former dancer but still a dedicated dance fan, I was amazing by the formal technique I saw on stage to the organic, soulful, smooth and jerky moments of the African dance styles. And it was all so natural. The movements were fluid, flowing and just seemed effortless…signs of a well trained dancer but also a real dancer, who just breathes the movement. And one of the few many things that you won’t forget about this production is how those women on stage moved their…butts. Yes, I said. I have never seen booties move that way and I was amazed. If I stay in D.C. full time, I will enrolling in the next African dance class that I can find because it was just so incredible who those women could just move their bodies. And it was effortless. My friend Portia, who came with me to the play, and I were so shocked and we kept thinking how are they doing that. lol But again, that’s what made this play so memorable because the smallest things like a move her or a move there were just so effortless.
But the one thing that I’m sure all of us will remember from this play is how one man really changed not only his country, but the world. His music had a message and he told. He said, “Yeah man, make me your black president” and they did, well kind of. He became an activist for change, supporting the traditional aspect of his African roots such as self-pride and self-reliance and made music that prompted social change.
So let’s just say, I’m still amazed at how director and choreographer, Bill T. Jones, created this production that was true to the story of Fela Kuti while integrating Fela’s music and the cultural aspects of African culture.
Unfortunately, Fela has left D.C. but their tour is far from over so if you have the chance to see Fela in your city, please take it. You will not regret it and you’ll walk away feeling refresh and inspired.
And on that note, I’ll leave you will one of my favorite songs from the night… Kere Kay!
Until next time,