Fela! the musical is coming to the National Theatre London!!

21 Mar


New York Times Published: March 18, 2010

While the West End has been home to the commercial runs of many successful Broadway musicals, the nonprofit National Theater in London on Thursday announced a rare undertaking for its stages: a production of the new Broadway musical “Fela!” later this year that will star the two actors who now alternate in the title role in New York.

The National Theater mostly produces plays, musicals and revivals on its own accord, and only occasionally imports or replicates American works. The Broadway production of the Tony Award-winning play “August: Osage County” transferred to the National in 2008, and the theater also mounted Tony Kushner’s musical “Caroline, or Change” in 2006, two years after its Broadway run ended.

The leaders of the National said in interviews that they had decided to pursue “Fela!” after seeing the Broadway production in January and thinking that the music and choreography of the show — about the Afrobeat star Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, featuring dancers in the aisles of a theater decorated like a Nigerian nightclub — was unlike anything now in London. They also said the musical might prove popular with Africans and world-music aficionados in London who know more about Fela than many Americans do.

“ ‘Fela!’ is one of the most exhilarating experiences I have ever had in the theater, and it will be a thrilling experience to bring it to the National,” said Nicholas Hytner, its artistic director.

Bill T. Jones, the director and choreographer of “Fela!” on Broadway, will perform the same duties at the National, and the two actors who play the lead, Sahr Ngaujah and Kevin Mambo, are set to perform on the stage of the National’s Olivier Theater.

“Fela!” is a relatively large-scale Broadway show, costing about $10 million to mount, and the National production will also be sizable, with a cast of about 22 people and a band of 10, theater executives said. The National’s executive director, Nick Starr, said that “Fela!” would play in repertory with a production of “Hamlet,” to star Rory Kinnear. Because the Olivier will need to accommodate both shows, Mr. Starr said, Mr. Jones and his “Fela!” designers will rely more on projections than they do in New York because they will not be able to decorate the Olivier to look like Fela’s nightclub in Lagos.

Stephen Hendel, the lead producer of “Fela!” on Broadway, said he had not begun thinking about a London production of “Fela!” until Mr. Hytner and Mr. Starr approached him in January. “Fela!” opened on Broadway only in November, to generally strong reviews. Grosses have been steady lately, but ticket sales have not been spectacular.

Mr. Hendel declined to discuss the financial arrangements, other than to confirm that the American producers will help cover travel and incidental expenses of the creative team. But Mr. Hendel said the National production could have great long-term value for “Fela!”

“You can’t buy the imprimatur of a theater like the National embracing your show,” Mr. Hendel said, adding that it was “a great way to introduce the show for the first time internationally.”


One Response to “Fela! the musical is coming to the National Theatre London!!”

  1. tina atiemo March 22, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    well done girl, you got it in the end 😉 xx

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