The exuberant new musical “Fela!” opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre last night, November 23. The production, which earned accolades during an earlier Off Broadway run, follows the life of legendary Afrobeat musician and human rights activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

Using Kuti’s music as its base, “Fela!” was conceived by Bill T. Jones, Jim Lewis and Stephen Henden with book by Jim Lewis. Tony Award winner Jones has also directed and choreographed the musical. Adding to the glitz and glamour, three high-visibility celebrities have come on board as producers: Jay-Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Previews began October 19 at the 1,050-seat Eugene O’Neill Theatre. Ticket prices range from $50.50 to $122, with paid admission averaging about $36 throughout previews. It reported a gross of $249,610 for the week ending November 22, according to the Broadway League.

Evening performances are scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. and Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. The theater is dark on Mondays. The two-act show runs for two hours and 40 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.

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Due to the approaching holiday season, there are no performances on November 26 or December 24-25. Additional performances have been added for November 27 at 2 p.m. and December 27 at 8 p.m.

The Eugene O’Neill Theatre is located at 230 West 49th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue. Performances run through April 4, 2010, and additional details are available on the production’s official Web site.


Opening Night: ‘Fela!’

Publication Critic Review
Variety David Rooney “…this is a show that defies an audience to remain outside the experience, particularly as the dancers and musicians shimmy and weave through the aisles.”
New York Times Ben Brantley “…after a performance of ‘Fela!,’ it comes as a shock that the people on the sidewalks are merely walking. Why aren’t they gyrating, swaying, vibrating, in thrall to the force field that you have been living in so ecstatically for the past couple of hours?”
USA Today Elysa Gardner “‘Fela!’ earns its exclamation point, joyfully and relentlessly.”
Newsday Linda Winer “More innovative than interesting”
Los Angeles Times Patrick Pacheco “…something of an outlier in an era of jukebox musicals and movie-to-musical adaptations, though not quite as exotic as it might seem at first.”
Hollywood Reporter Frank Scheck “A smash hit Off Broadway, this wildly entertaining show will need all the help it can get to attract mainstream audiences…”

Last Updated on November 25, 2009