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'Fela!' opens at the Academy of Music

The Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.

Paulette Ivory was largely unfamiliar with legendary Nigerian Afrobeat
pioneer and political activist Fela Kuti when she joined the cast of
"Fela!" at The National in London in 2010. She knew even less about her
character, Kuti’s American Black Panther paramour Sandra Izidore, but
since playing the role in cities around the world, she’s become
intimately familiar with the late Kuti’s legacy and personal friends
with her real-life counterpart. When we spoke last week, the
British-born, L.A.-based actress was expecting Izidore for dinner at her
home the following night.

"I already played her pretty aggressively before I met her," Ivory says
of Izidore. “But once I met her, I realized she was fearless. I would
say I'm a strong woman, but she makes me look like a pushover.

She's beautiful, very intelligent, passionate and aggressive.”

The Tony-winning Broadway musical, which starts an eight-show run at the
Academy of Music on Tuesday, tells Kuti's life in a production blending
the theater and concert stage. Starring Sierra

Leonean-American actor Sahr Ngaujah, who originated the role of Kuti on
Broadway, and directed by choreographer Bill T. Jones, the show brims
with exuberant Afrobeat music.

"It's not like other musicals where you sit back and watch and are
entertained," Ivory says. "The audience is the experience. That's what I
love about it."

If You Go




'Fela!'

Mar. 20-25

Academy of Music

Broad and Locust sts.

$20-$100, 215-893-1999

www.kimmelcenter.org/broadway