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The Suburbanite
  • Theater review: Fela! brings the house down

  • A lively and stirring story about the Nigerian human rights leader that delivers in Cleveland.

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  •  There is a scene towards the end of Fela! where Fela Kuti sings a duet with his dead mother after she was pushed out of a window by Nigerian soldiers.
    The song is moving by itself, but Tuesday night in Cleveland, when Adesola Osakalumi and Melanie Marshall sang, the earth shifted a little.
    It was simply gorgeous. Marshall, who plays Fela’s mother, Funmilayo, was so powerful, the obnoxious teenagers chatting behind me stopped silent. It was a theater miracle.
    Osakalumi played a very dynamic Fela. His work across the stage and with the other cast members, especially the group of gorgeous female dancers, was organic. Even with an initially hesitant audience, Osakalumi easily played the crowd and had us warmed up quickly.
    Even though the musical’s biggest name was Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child fame, who played Sandra, her small frame and soprano voice were not particularly engaging.
    Fela! is a musical about a live performance where Fela talks about his life leading to and including his work as a human rights activist in his native Nigeria.  
    The national tour, which is produced by Jay Z and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, is only in Cleveland for two more days, tonight and Thursday.
    However, it’s worth running over there and seeing if there are tickets available. Seriously.
    Shows are at 7:30 at the Palace Theater, 1615 Euclid Ave. in Cleveland. Tickets are available at www.playhousesquare.org.
     
    Reach Summer at 330-580-8488 or summer.moore@cantonrep.com
    On Twitter: @smooreREP