'Fela!' dazzled Broadway with brilliance, majesty, and "no artificiality"

Misani | 8/24/2011, 3:54 p.m.
Will Broadway ever again experience the inextinguishable fire and sweet, soul-scorching passion of another fascinating,...
Kevin Mambo, Sahr Ngaujah at the 'Fela!' finale (Dave Goodson photo)

Producer Edward Tyler Nahem and press agent Richard Kornburg were also in the house, as was Bill T. Jones. All of the dancers in New York City--including "Fela!"'s talented associate choreographer, Maija Garcia--many of whom were in the standing-room-only area in the back, stopped by to pay homage to Bill T. as they took over the aisles, dancing and cheering on the incredible African Diaspora "Fela!" cast, including the phenomenal Kevin Mambo as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti along with featured performers Patti LaBelle (Funmilayo) and Saycon Sengbloh (Sandra Isadore).

The show-stopping ensemble members included: Corey Baker, Hettie Vyrine Barnhill, Lauren DeVeaux, Nicole Chantal de Weever, Elasea Douglas, Rujeko Dumbutshena, Catherine Foster, Rasaan-Elijah "Talu" Green, Shaneeka Harrell, Chanon Judson, Abena Koomson, Ismael Kouyate, Gelan Lambert, Farai Malianga, Shakira Marshall, Afi McClendon, Adesola Osakalumi, Jeffrey Page, Ryan H. Rankine, Oneika Phillips, Justin Prescott, Daniel Soto, Jill M. Vallery, J.L Williams, Iris Wilson and Aimee Graham Wodobode.

The music of Aaron Johnson and Jordan McClean was a nonstop fierce get-up-and-groove session, thanks to Antibalas, the hottest band on Broadway.

And surprise, surprise! During the curtain call who joined the cast on stage but the extraordinary Tony Award-winner Lillias White who originated the role of Funmilayo?! Oh-oh, then the one and only Sahr Ngaujah who originated the role of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was hugging Kevin Mambo. (He had taken time off from his lead role in the London National Theatre's production of "Fela!" to be in New York for the closing show.) The crowd went crazy when Ngaujah and Lillias White joined Mambo in singing the closing "Fela!" hit, "Gentleman," Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's celebrated anthem. As if all of this was not climactic enough, here comes the incredible Bill T. Jones embodying the spirit of all the African loas, as he danced on to the stage!!! The crowd truly lost it.

At the opposite end of the stage, the visionary Stephen Hendel stood grinning. He who had helmed this production from beginning to end, who kept the faith when others gave up, who got to know and respect and work with the African Diaspora community, who believed that this run was possible. Ruth Hendel, his wife and dynamic partner later conveyed: "Although Broadway's "Fela!" is over, we're not done yet. We're going global! "Fela!" has too much worth to permanently close up shop."

From Off-Broadway to Broadway to global, the indomitable spirit of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti--he who carries death in his pouch--will live on and on and on through the hit musical, "Fela!" Hey, like the Afrobeat Renaissance leader would say, "everybody say, "yeh yeah!" Scene/Seen.

To contact the Africa Sings!!! Group please email africasings@gmail.com