Seat Filler: NYC Theater Guide for December 2009
BY Brandon Voss
December 16 2009 10:10 AM ET
Thanks in part to producers Jay-Z and Will Smith, Fela! the new Broadway musical celebrating the life of Nigerian revolutionary Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, has transformed the Eugene O’Neill Theatre into the Shrine, Fela’s infamous Lagos nightclub. There’s a scary, somber edge to the political strife, but Fela! is mostly a colorful rump-shaking tribute to the Afrobeat legend with audience interaction. (Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon gleefully replicated clock-inspired hip thrusts the night I attended.) The bad news: A little Fela goes a long way, so two hours and 40 minutes is a schlep. The drums had nearly lulled me to sleep by the time Fela went to the ultraviolet-lit “other side” to visit his murdered mom, played by the luminous Lillias White — who was Jennifer Holliday’s understudy in Dreamgirls and played Effie in the 1987 revival.