We say "Yeah-Yeah!" to Fela!

I love it when shows surprise me when I leave with how much I enjoy them.  This has happened with shows such as Working, and more recently American Idiot.  But it’s fantastic leaving with that “show high” that comes so often (one should hope) after leaving the theater. Val and I usually have to hit up the bar for an 11 o’clock night cap to talk about what we just experienced and just to calm down our excitment.

Fela! was a nice surprise though in many respects.  I got a Yelp message (which lately I don’t get many of) and it’s telling me about comp tickets to the opening night of Fela! at the Oriental Theater.  So of course I jumped right on that!  When we arrived we found that we had not only free tickets, but free orchestra level tickets?! I was prepared to hike it up to the balcony and instead just walked right in.  Very nice!

The story I had to look up before we came.  The only thing I had ever seen of Fela! was a performance on the 2010 Tonys when it was nominated for 11 Tonys, including Best Musical!  And I knew that Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s names were attached to it in some fashion.  So in looking it up online I learned of the real life activist and musician Fela Kuti and the turmoil he had to deal with just to make life in Nigeria a little better.  

One thing I didn’t expect from this show was how interactive it was.  Just 10 minutes into the production “Fela” tells us to all stand and then teaches us how to shake our hips to the music.  Lots of hoopin’ and hollerin’ and hip shakin’ happened while actors ran up and down the aisles for encouragement!  Fun and gets the mood set right away for the rest of the show.  

Some notable parts, or should I say people, would be for one the fabulous Melanie Marshall playing Funmilayo.  This woman could SING.  Loud, soft, high note, low note.  I was even amazed at the rolling of her “r’s” (something I could never master in French class) while singing.  She was incredible, and after looking at the Playbill and seeing the training she’s had, it makes sense.

Now onto Fela “himself”.  Sahr Ngaujah was the original Fela and is now touring with the production, which I read is something he didn’t want to do at first considering how taxing and emotional the show is to begin with, then you add the travel part!  This man was the complete package ladies!  He can sing, he can crack jokes, dance, play the saxaphone (while dancing) AND he’s hot with his shirt off.  Sahr was perfectly cast for this role.  The way he interacted with the audience was hilarious, and he shows the exact characteristics that one might think Fela Kuti had.  

The set was incredible and the sound made the floors shake!  There’s a scene with black lights that is eerie and gorgeous all at once!  Paulette Ivory who played Sandra, also has a killer voice (and was the original Nala in London’s “The Lion King”!).  Also, I loved the touch of the actors running up and down the aisles to created a scene (you are suppose to feel like your in the Shrine night club after all!) and behind us there were people occasionally clapping and hooting and hollering to create the scene all around the audience.  Touches like this make me smile ear-to-ear at the theater.

This show extended its run in Chicago for the Spring Break season and I highly recommend everyone go see it – grab a discount code if you have to!  I’m sure the sounds projects amazingly up in the balcony too it’s so loud!  Enjoy and lemme hear ya say “Yeah-Yeah!”.


Guess we don’t have to make that NYC trip after all

In a season of Chicago theater that included oddities such as Pinkalicious, Colin Quinn and Love, Lost and What I Wore, I was scared and excited to hear what Broadway in Chicago might bring to the table this time.  I was wishing for two things that I knew would be touring:  Sister Act, American Idiot, and Book of Mormon.  Mainly Book of Mormon.  

In fact the night before, Val and I were discussing an upcoming trip to NYC for the sole reason of seeing this production.  Which at earliest was going to be April, considering all other tickets were gone.  The following morning I’m on my Twitter feed and see a breaking news announcement.  I couldn’t believe it.  Chicago got Book of Mormon to start the second leg of their tours!  Thank goodness we didn’t book that trip.  Though April 2012 is closer than December of 2012, but I’ll take it!

The following day, BIC decided to announce their spring season of shows.  And I read the article and finished thinking about when I wrote that we were no longer BIC subscribers (which we aren’t) but now, we might have to be again.  Here’s what Chicago can look forward to for the Spring 2012 season:

American Idiot 
Bring It On

along with:
South Pacific
In the Heights
Mamma Mia
Jersey Boys

And then Book of Mormon for the holiday season.  American Idiot I’ve been wanting to see just for something different in the Broadway world besides remakes of old shows.  And being a Green Day listener since ‘Dookie’ I tend to listen to their newer albums.  The first time I heard American Idiot, I thought it was quite powerful, so I wasn’t surprised when it took to the stage.  It wasn’t something I was going to make a trip for, but now that it will be here, that’s easy!  

Fela! always has sounded fun, emotional and powerful.  Though most of what I’ve seen was on TV, I think it will be enjoyable.  Bring It On, well, this one I’m not sure of.  The movie I adore in all it’s cheesy campy style.  The musical?  I’m not sold, but I won’t turn it down.  I kind of want to down a bottle of wine before hand to make it funny.  But who knows?  On it’s own it might be.  Also, seeing the cheer-leading competition going on on stage could be interesting, right?  Well, we’ll see!

The latter shows, are some I’m not enthused about but there’s only one I don’t want to see and that’s Cats.  But then I think, am I a bad theater goer since I’ve never seen it’s stage production and only viewed it on DVD?  I loathe that music though, and the whole concept seems silly.  So I suppose, if it’s in the package, fine, I’ll suffer through, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.  In The Heights is one I would like to see the most.  Lin-Manuel is brilliant (as seen with his fine writing below for the 2011 Tony Awards, NPH’s great rap written on the fly) and this show looks edgy and gritty with well written music.  

So Chicago, which show(s) are you most looking forward to?  Of course everyone in the Theater Loop is abuzz about Book of Mormon.  Heck, we’re getting 15 of our closest friends to get the earliest tickets available I think!  But, do you agree that this Spring season makes up for the Fall of 2011?  Though….I will miss those awesome Bank of America seats we had when we canceled our subscription….*sigh*