FELA! at Jones Hall: An Immortal Feast

If ever a show's name deserved the all-caps, exclamation mark treatment, FELA! is it. Both the man and the multiple-Tony Award-winning musical about him are larger than life, spectacles equally spiritual, sensual and cerebral.

Nigerian afrobeat creator Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's life had two acts, and so does this show, though Sierra Leonean-American actor Sahr Ngaujah, in the role of Kuti, refers to them onstage as "sets."

That's no accident, as FELA! takes the form of one evening -- the very last concert, as it happens -- in the "Shrine," Kuti's legendary nightclub/commune compound on the outskirts of Lagos.

Nights at the Shrine were rambling, wee-hours, weed-scented affairs, devoted in equal parts to Kuti's music, the dancing of his many Queens, and his own acidly humorous, bluntly honest polemics in support of pan-African nationalism and flaying colonialism and assimilation and globalist capitalism, its lingering hangovers.

The show captures this roiling stew masterfully, even if the narrative is somewhat confusing in parts. (Though narrative most definitely takes a backseat to the sheer exquisite majesty of the performance.)

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John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax