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Fela! comes to National

Published April 13, 2010

The Broadway show Fela! is to receive its London premiere courtesy of the National Theatre this autumn, when it opens in the Olivier theatre on 6 November (press night 16 November).

Fela!, described as a unique hybrid of dance, theatre and music, explores the extravagant, decadent and rebellious world of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. The show uses his pioneering blend of jazz, funk and African rhythms to tell the controversial life story of this Nigerian-born artist, musician, polygamist, commune founder and political activist, who died in 1997.

Fela!, which is co-written, directed and choreographed by Tony Award-winner Bill T Jones, began life off-Broadway in 2008 before beginning a Broadway run last year, attracting the attention of high profile stars including Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, who are named as associate producers in both New York and London.

Jones, whose production of Spring Awakening recently won several Laurence Olivier Awards, will return to London to stage the UK premiere production of Fela! Though the Broadway production continues its run, its stars, Sahr Ngaujah and Kevin Mambo, will cross the pond to alternate in the lead role at the National Theatre alongside a new British cast.

Fela! joins a National Theatre season that also includes Michael Grandage’s NT directorial debut Danton’s Death and new plays by Moira Buffini and Mike Bartlett.

In casting news, Nancy Carroll, Benedict Cumberbatch and Adrian Scarborough are to star in Terence Rattigan’s After The Dance, directed by Thea Sharrock in the Lyttelton, while Lia Williams, Geoffrey Streatfeild, Bill Paterson, Anna Madeley and Jessica Raine will appear in Bartlett’s Earthquakes In London, directed by Rupert Goold in the Cottesloe.

The National has also announced that Alan Bennett’s The Habit Of Art, which is currently playing to 19 May, will return to the repertoire from 14 July with a new cast including Desmond Barrit and Malcolm Sinclair.

CB