“Fela!” represents the first time that Jay-Z and the Smiths have joined a producing team of a Broadway show. Their artistic involvement in the musical is bound to be minimal, given that the show is already in previews and had a critically acclaimed run Off Broadway last year.
The presence of three high-wattage celebrities at opening night in the past has continued to promote the show through television appearances and media interviews which has raised the public profile of “Fela!” at a time when theatergoers have plenty of choices for Broadway musicals.
Revivals of “Ragtime,” “Finian’s Rainbow,” and “Bye Bye Birdie” opened this fall, as did the new musical “Memphis,” and the much-anticipated revival ofStephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” opens next month. Several musical entries from last season, like “Billy Elliot,” “Hair” and “Next to Normal,” are still going strong.
Conceived by the Tony Award-winning choreographer Bill T. Jones, “Fela!” centers on the life and work of the Afrobeat superstar Fela Anikulapo Kuti. There are no widely known stars in the cast, which makes the involvement of Jay-Z and the Smiths even more of a boon for marketing purposes.