PHOTO CALL: Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child in Rehearsal for Fela! National Tour
By Matthew Blank
Destiny's Child star Michelle Williams will join the national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical Fela! as Sandra Isadore when the production returns to Washington, D.C. Jan. 29 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. The cast offered an open rehearsal in New York Jan. 23.
In addition to her work in the Grammy-winning pop trio Destiny's Child, Williams appeared in the title role of Broadway's Aida and as Shug Avery in the national tour of The Color Purple.
"I am thrilled to join the cast of Fela!," Williams said in a statement. "This musical journey is one that I've wanted to be a part of since first seeing it on stage in 2008. The sounds, the passion and the politics of Fela Kuti have long intrigued me and speak to my heart. I am simply honored."
The tour currently features Adesola Osakalumi and Duain Richmond alternating in the role of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, with Melanie Marshall as Funmilayo.
Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening) directed and choreographed Fela!, which features a book by Jones and Jim Lewis and utilizes Anikulapo-Kuti's own music. Lewis, a Tony nominee for Chronicle of a Death Foretold, also penned additional lyrics. The musical was conceived by Jones, Lewis and Stephen Hendel.
Fela! earned Tony nominations for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones), Best Actor (Ngaujah), Best Featured Actress (Lillias White), Best Choreography (Jones), Best Direction (Jones), Best Orchestrations (Aaron Johnson), Best Scenic Design (Marina Draghici), Best Costume Design (Marina Draghici), Best Lighting Design (Robert Wierzel) and Best Sound Design (Robert Kaplowitz). It took home the honors for Best Choreography, Best Costume Design and Best Sound Design.
In Fela!, according to producers, "audiences are welcomed into the extravagant, decadent and rebellious world of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Using his pioneering music (a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies), [the musical] explores Kuti's controversial life as artist, political activist and revolutionary musician."
The design team includes scenic and costume designer Marina Draghici, lighting designer Rob Wierzel, sound designer Rob Kaplowitz and projection designer Peter Nigrini. Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean provide musical arrangements.
Fela! is produced by Shawn ‘JAY Z’ Carter, Will & Jada Pinkett Smith, Ruth & Stephen Hendel, the National Theatre of Great Britain, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Roy Gabay, Edward Tyler Nahem, Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson, SlavaSmolokowski, Chip Meyrelles/Ken Greiner, Douglas G. Smith, Steve Semlitz/Cathy Glazer, Daryl Roth/True Love Productions, Susan Dietz/Mort Swinsky and Knitting Factory Entertainment.
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