Olivier and Tony Award-nominated actor Sahr Ngaujah leads the cast of FELA! at Sadler’s Wells’ this summer, joined by Melanie Marshall as Funmilayo Kuti and Paulette Ivory as Sandra Izsadore.
A provocative hybrid of dance, theatre and music, exploring the extravagant, decadent and rebellious world of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical runs at Sadler’s Wells from 20 July to 28 August 2011.
Ngaujah, Marshall and Ivory reprise their roles in FELA!, Ngaujah having most recently led the cast for the landmark performances of FELA! in Lagos, as well as at the National Theatre in 2010. During its run at the NT, the show received three Olivier Award nominations, including one for Sahr Ngaujah as Best Actor in a Musical.
Ngaujah originated the role of Fela Kuti Off-Broadway and transferred with the show to Broadway, where he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. His film and TV credits include Passing Glory, A Lesson Before Dying, The Signal, Stomp the Yard and Blood Done Sign My Name. He is currently art director for the Sierra Leone hiphop act Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew.
Paulette Ivory originated the role of Nala in the West End production of The Lion King and was nominated for the Helen Hayes Award for her role in the US National Tour of Aida. Melanie Marshall has appeared in Simply Heavenly, Porgy and Bess, Fame, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Kiss Me Kate in the West End.
Adesola Osakalumi plays Fela Kuti at certain performances throughout the run and understudies Sahr Ngaujah. He previously understudied the role of Fela Kuti in New York. His other credits include Equus on Broadway, and Jam on the Groove, for which he was nominate for a Drama Desk award.
Also joining the cast of 25 are Ismael Kouyate, Gelan Lambert, Talu Green, Iris Wilson, Nicole DeWeever, Cat Foster, Cindy Belliot, Aimee Wodobode, Nandi Bhebhe, Pundo Gomis, Catia Mota Da Cruz, Sherinne Anderson, Jacqui Dubois, Wanjiru Kamuyu, Jill Marie Vallery, Oneika Phillips, Ryan Rankine, Jermaine Rowe, Thierry Picaut, Justin Prescott and Jonathan Andre.
The cast at Sadler’s Wells combines companies from both the award-winning Broadway and National Theatre productions of the show. Ahead of their six week run at Sadler’s Wells, the cast will perform at Latitude on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 July.
Featuring many of Fela Kuti’s most captivating songs and Bill T Jones’s visionary, award-winning staging, FELA! reveals Kuti’s controversial life as an artist and political activist and celebrates his pioneering music.
Recognised as an icon in the international world of rock and roll, soul, jazz and hip-hop, Fela Kuti combined elements of traditional Yoruba, high life and jazz, giving rise to “Afrobeat”. Through his music he condemned military regimes in Nigeria. He was arrested more than 200 times and beaten savagely on many occasions. Despite this he continued to live in Nigeria and produced more than 70 albums during his career.
FELA! was choreographed, directed and co-written (with lyricist Jim Lewis) by Bill T. Jones, a leading light in American contemporary dance. Jones choreographed and performed worldwide as a soloist and duet company with his late partner, Arnie Zane, before forming the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982. The company last performed at Sadler’s Wells in 2004.
Jones’ awards include the 2007 Tony Award, the 2007 Obie Award and 2006 Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation Callaway Award for his choreography for Spring Awakening and the 2006 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Choreography for The Seven.
FELA! received its world premiere Off-Broadway in September 2008, where it won the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical, before transferring to Broadway’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre in November 2009 where its accolades included three 2010 Tony Awards®, for Best Choreography, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Design, and an Astaire Award for Bill T. Jones’ choreography.
FELA! is directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, with a book by Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones, and music and lyrics by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Conceived by Bill T. Jones, Jim Lewis and Stephen Hendel, the design and Tony Award winning costumes are by Marina Draghici, lighting design by Robert Wierzel and the Tony Award winning sound design by Robert Kaplowitz.
FELA! is produced in association with Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter, Will & Jada Pinkett Smith, Ruth & Stephen Hendel, Roy Gabay, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Edward Tyler Nahem, Slava Smolokowski, Chip Meyrelles/Ken Greiner, Douglas G. Smith, Steve Semlitz/Cathy Glazer, Daryl Roth/True Love Productions, Susan Dietz/Mort Swinsky, Knitting Factory Entertainment and with Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson.
“The dancing is ecstatic, the music lifts the spirits and the stage is alive with movement” The Guardian
Release issued by: Sadler’s Wells press office