Best Musical - 2013
Never has an exclamation point seemed more necessary to a title than that of Fela! Broadway's high-energy celebration of the life and music of Afrobeat innovator, Fela Kuti (Adesola Osakalumi). It made its long-awaited premiere at the Arsht Center, which was transformed into a subversive Nigerian nightclub circa 1977. Chronicling the musician's rise from middle-class African family to student of black liberation theology and the controversial fusion of jazz, funk, and activism that soon accompanied it, Fela! was a history lesson about the Afrobeat genre as much as its charismatic inventor — albeit a history lesson complete with pot-smoking, booty-shaking, and more motherfuckers than a Samuel L. Jackson retrospective. The wonderful references to the injustices of News Corporation, Monsanto, and Citizens United only cemented the continued relevancy of its lessons. But more than its story, Fela! was a triumph in form, with the impossibly good ensemble of dancers and onstage band of musicians creating an atmosphere of infectious exuberance that spilled out into the audience when Osakalumi prompted the entire Arsht throng of Fela fans and soon-to-be fans to rise from their seats and practice African dance moves.