By Nehru Odeh
The globe is in for a big show on Afrobeat king Fela Anikulapo Kuti never heard before. As the show, entitled Fela Ten Twenty, an audio adaptation of FELA! the Broadway Musical, will soon hit the airwaves. And it will feature an exciting new interpretation of Bill T. Jones’ and Jim Lewis’ original FELA! script in the context of the recent #EndSARS Movement.
According to Stephen Hendel, the lead producer of the Broadway show, FELA!, the fascinating thing about the audio adaptation, which was written and directed by award -winning filmmaker Funa Maduka, is that it will premiere on Clubhouse, the popular drop-in audio chat platform, on Saturday 15 May and Sunday 16 May, 2021. Clubhouse Boasts a User Base Of Over 20 Million Members.
The play “will feature a talented cast of actors from Nigeria, the UK and the US, including: Sir Marcell as Fela Kuti, Jumoké Fashola as Funmilayo Kuti, NC Grey as Najite– a Kalakuta Queen, Nneamaka Nwadei as Omolara– a Kalakuta Queen, Malikat Rufai as Sandra Izsadore, Uche Ogodi as J.K. Braimah, Comfort Dangana as DJ Switch, Adeola Adebari as Tunde, Muhammed Agboluaje as the Driver, LaToya Ransom as the Radio Journalist and Aliu Ajala as the Babalawo.
“The spark for this ambitious production came when a group of four friends, Eniola Mafe, Omolola Adele-Oso, Chinedu Enekwe and Audu Maikori, were inspired to host a table read of FELA! on Clubhouse to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the close of the show’s Broadway run. They approached Maduka to direct, who pitched reimagining it, and the audio play adaptation was born. OkayAfrica, the digital media platform dedicated to African culture, music, and politics, is the Official Media Sponsor of Fela Ten Twenty. The site has become a popular destination for Africans on the continent and in the diaspora,” the statement said.
Hendel, whose Broadway show was nominated for 11 Tony awards, also said the play does not only belong to Nigeria, Africa and the world but also “It is a thrill to have the show reimagined by a team of young, creative Nigerians. I’m proud to support these artists who have come together to honor Fela Kuti’s legacy with such immense commitment and dedication.”
The producers of the play are Stephen Hendel, Funa Maduka and Ọlabimpe Ọlaniyan, daughter of the late renowned Fela scholar, Tejumola Olaniyan. Kingsley Okorie and Benjamin James of The Cavemen are music directors. Marcellus Wesley is both technical director and sound designer and Ellen Marte both VFX director and graphic designer while Amanda Ezechi is marketing director.
Sahr Ngaujah, actor, director, producer and FELA! on the Broadway, Robert Kaplowitz, Tony Award-Winning Sound Designer of the Broadway Show, FELA!; and Abena Koomson-Davis, educator and member of the original cast of the Broadway show, FELA! all served as consultants for this interesting production which Funa Maduka says is a love letter to all those who are fighting for a better Nigeria.
Stephen Hendel said “proceeds from the show will be used to support GEANCO, whose David Oyelowo Leadership Scholarship programme provides full tuition, healthcare, social and psychological support to young female survivors of terrorism and gender inequality.”