Thursday, September 04, 2008


photo: Monique Carboni

More narrated Afro-beat concert than traditional musical, this celebration of Nigerian musical genius and political activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti features vibrant, spirit-lifting dance, sensationally performed world music, and a charismatic lead performance by Sahr Ngaujah. (It also features an extended ensemble dance sequence in the first act that is among the most electrifying I've ever seen in a theatre; it's the kind of dancing that makes bodies look as if they've been freed from the limits of their spines.) Unfortunately, the show's high level of artistry doesn't extend to the underdeveloped book; the show's primitive overuse of narration and over-reliance on visually projected information is as deadly as the music and dancing are thrilling. The show, directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, is organized around the conceit that we're in Fela's "shrine" in 1977 watching him perform. Too often, we feel instead we're in history class.

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