An audio adaptation of Fela! premieres on the app Clubhouse May 15. Fela Ten Twenty (the title of the audio adaptation) features a new interpretation of Bill T. Jones and Jim Lewis' original book, framing the ongoing #EndSARS movement in the context of Fela Kuti's legacy.
“Fela’s music, the foundation for Afrobeat, demanded global engagement with African political thought,” said writer-director Funa Maduka in an earlier statement. “In the aftermath of the October 2020 #EndSARS protests against police brutality, his message still achingly resounds. This production is a love letter to those fighting for a better Nigeria.”
The cast features performers from Nigeria, the U.K., and the U.S., including Sir Marcell as Fela Kuti, Jumoké Fashola as Funmilayo Kuti, Genevie Vennaji as Sewaa, 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.
Fela Ten Twenty is produced by Maduka, original Fela! producer Stephen Hendel, and Ọlabimpe Ọlaniyan. Kingsley Okorie and Benjamin James of The Cavemen are music directors with Marcellus Wesley as technical director and sound designer, Ellen Marte as VFX director and graphic designer, and Amanda Ezechi as marketing director. Music for the production was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, by The Cavemen.
Consulting on the production are cast and creative team members of the original Broadway production, including title star Sahr Ngaujah (currently Tony-nominated for Moulin Rouge!), sound designer Robert Kaplowitz, and educator Abena Koomson-Davis.
The show opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in 2009, scoring 11 Tony Award nominations. Conceived by Bill T. Jones, Jim Lewis, and Stephen Hendel, Fela! explores the life of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the Nigerian artist, activist, composer, and performer. The musical uses Kuti’s music with additional music by Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean and a book by Jones and Jim Lewis.
Proceeds from the show will support GEANCO, whose David Oyelowo Leadership Scholarship provides full tuition, healthcare, and social and psychological support to young female survivors of terrorism and gender inequality.
The spark for this adaptation 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. The presentation follows an audio production of Dreamgirls that ran on Clubhouse in February.