Fela Kuti was a Nigerian musician with 27 wives who turned into a civic activist after meeting Sandra Isadore, a member of the Black Panthers in the 1970s. “She was instrumental in changing his political views. She really pushed his buttons,” says actress Paulette Ivory, who plays Isadore in FELA!, a musical dance production and three-time Tony Award winner, coming to Houston’s Jones Hall courtesy of the Society for the Performing Arts. Although a lot of Fela’s music wasn’t getting out of the country at the time because he was on bad terms with the military dictatorship that ran Nigeria, eventually, Ivory says, “People did hear about him — Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney — so he still managed to get a following.”
Another actress in the show, Melanie Marshall, who plays Fela’s mother, Funmilayo, spends a lot of the play as a ghost. “I only appear onstage five times; you hear me backstage a lot.” Actor Sahr Ngaujah plays Fela, a part he has been doing for more than six years now. “Doing that role every night is unbelievable,” Ivory says. 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit www.-spahouston.org.
June 5-8, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 9, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., June 10, 3 & 7:30 p.m., 2012