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Review: Fela! (a musical) in Dallas, Texas

Adesola Osakalumi and Michelle Williams in FELA photo by Carol Rosegg
Adesola Osakalumi and Michelle Williams in FELA photo by Carol Rosegg

Dancing in our Seats

Opening night of the Tony Award winning musical Fela! had its Dallas audience dancing in their seats – and the show hadn’t even started yet. Instead of waiting for the curtain to rise, musicians were already jamming with the set on full display as viewers found their seats. In this clever way the show made us feel that, instead of coming to see a musical at Winspear Opera House, we were at a nightclub to hear the legendary Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and his band perform.

Who is Fela Anikulapo-Kuti?

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti is the father of Afrobeat music, a lively blend of African rhythms, funk, jazz and rock music. Like a Nigerian Bob Marley, Fela’s deceptively upbeat songs often have politically charged lyrics.

Thought Provoking History Lesson

Fela! is more than just the life story of one man and his musical career. The show offers the viewpoint of a nation whose natural resources have been pillaged by other countries and corporations while the people are starving and oppressed.

If that sounds like a downer, don’t worry, even at it’s most distressing moments, Fela! lacks bitterness and leaves a hopeful aftertaste. I especially enjoyed Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s comparison of the British to house guests who were fun at first, but gradually wore out their welcome (to put it lightly.) Such commentary gives a human perspective to the history we were (or weren’t) taught in school.

Michelle Williams in FELA photo by Carol Rosegg

Adesola Osakalumi is Fela

The strength of the show rests squarely on the muscular shoulders of Adesola Osakalumi, whose effortless charisma quickly makes you forget he is an actor playing a role and not Fela Anikulapo-Kuti himself.

The show would have fallen flat on its face without Osakalumi’s flambouyant-yet-manly charm. I mean, really, how many men can rock a pink pastel pantsuit without coming off like Liberace?

Michelle Williams & Melanie Marshall

Fans of Destiny’s Child will enjoy seeing and hearing the stunning Michelle Williams perform as one of Fela’s many girlfriends. (Speaking of his love life, Fela was married to 27 women at the same time!)

Melanie Marshall, who plays Fela’s mother, has a gorgeous voice, too. Although Fela’s mom dies at the hands of Nigerian soldiers, her wisdom and strength continue to guide her son throughout his life. The scenes where her ghost appear add a dreamy counterpoint to the fast paced rhythms that dominate the show.

Michelle Williams and Adesola Osakalumi in FELA photo by Carol Rosegg
Michelle Williams and Adesola Osakalumi in FELA photo by Carol Rosegg

Tony® Award Winning Choreography

Produced by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Will & Jada Pinkett Smith and Ruth & Stephen Hendel, Fela! won three 2010 Tony® Awards, including Best Choreography. The dancing is so energetic that on the drive home my husband and I tried to calculate how many calories were burned by the performers during the musical. It’s a lively show and well worth seeing, so grab your tickets while you can.

For More Information:

What: FELA! a Tony® Award winning musical as part of the Lexus Broadway Series at the AT&T Performing Arts Center (a.k.a. Winspear Opera House) in Dallas, Texas
When: May 7 through May 19, 2013
Where: AT&T Performing Arts Center (a.k.a. Winspear Opera House), 2403 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201
Price: Tickets start at $30. Check availability and book online at the AT&T Performing Art Center official website.
Runtime:Approximately 2 1/2 hours, including one intermission.

NOTE: While tickets were provided for review purposes, the opinions expressed in this article are wholly my own.

Photo credits: All photos provided courtesy of the AT&T Performing Arts Center

Tui Snider
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Tui Snider

Tui Snider is an author, speaker, and photographer who specializes in North Texas travel, cemetery symbols, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction – but then, I moved to Texas!”

Snider’s best-selling books include Paranormal Texas , Understanding Cemetery Symbols, and 100 Things to Do in Dallas - Fort Worth Before You Die.

Snider has several more books in progress, and enjoys connecting with writers and readers all over the globe through social media, her newsletter and her website:

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  1. Popping back in again, well have several times but didn’t leave a comment since you didn’t have a new post, but thought I would today. Hope you’re ok, been too long since you’ve visited or blogged.

  2. This does sound like a wonderful musical. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  3. Not at all familiar but just looking at the pictures you can almost feel the beat of the music and enjoy the colors of the costuming.

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