I've been feeling a little stir-crazy lately, and if the feedback I've been getting about the preponderance of recipe posts I've been writing lately is any indicator, you're probably not surprised. Much as I love cooking and trying new recipes, I've been dying to get out of the house more lately, so I've been scouring my usual source of inspiration for activities around town, and hunting down entertainment bargains non-stop. Earlier this week, I found a promo-code on the Broadway in Chicago Facebook page for $36 tickets for Fela!, the biographical musical about afrobeat pioneer, Fela Kuti, and I snatched them up.
I hadn't been particularly interested in seeing Fela!, but Justin has more eclectic taste in music than I do, and a better appreciation for world music. He'd expressed an interest in seeing Fela! quite some time ago, but neither of us were motivated enough to pay full price for the privilege. Instead, I kept my eye on Hot Tix and Broadway in Chicago, the two leading sources for discounted tickets to major productions in the city, and waited. Weeks went by, and several deals were offered, but none of them were quite enticing enough. The tickets were either cheap, but terrible, or decent, but only slightly marked down. Finally, tonight, with only a few performances left, there was a last-minute deal for 1/2 price tickets, anywhere in the audience. We snapped up some reasonably-priced tickets that were perfectly-located, and headed over to the Ford Oriental Theater to catch the show.
Once we got to the theater, it became clear that we weren't the show's target demographic -- the crowd was approximately eighty percent young, black urban professionals, ten percent clueless white hipsters embarrassing themselves in their early 1990s hip hop Africa necklaces and Jamaican-print clothing, five percent tourists who wanted to catch a show in the big city regardless of what it was, and five percent stuffy older white people who were probably season ticket holders. Still, despite being obviously out of our element, I ended up really enjoying Fela!
The music was incredibly catchy, and though I didn't appreciate the cast's attempt to get everyone up on their feet and dancing (I hate being made to dance for pretty much any reason), the call-and-response tradition within the African-American community made for some of the most natural, unforced audience participation of any show I've ever seen. At times, I wish the audience had been a little less enthusiastic, as the constant appreciative shouts of "You go, girl!" at the female dancers on stage were a distraction, but it contributed to the show's tremendous sense of energy.
Sahr Ngaujah, who played the titular Fela Kuti, was a phenomenal performer. He was charismatic, and his stamina never flagged for a moment, despite the incredibly demanding role. Justin also tells me that he was very true to the personality and style of Fela, but I'll have to take his word for that. It's easy to understand why he was nominated for a Tony Award for his work in this role either way. The rest of the cast was similarly talented, from the musicians who played on stage and interacted with the singers and dancers, to the incredible dancers who managed to shake their hips at a ferocious rate for the entire length of the show. They were in incredible shape, and certainly easy on the eyes as well.