by Bridget Bland
Hip-hop royalty is returning to Broadway.
Following in the same vein as Russell Simmons‘ Tony Award-winning turn with ‘Def Jam on Broadway’ and Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ big splash in Kenny Leon‘s revival of ‘A Raisin in the Sun,’ ShaFelawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith are taking on the Great White Way.
Contract talks have been going on for weeks between the hip-hop and Hollywood A-listers and the ‘Fela!’ creative team, and today, Richard Kornberg, Billy Zavelson and Tommy Wesley officially announced that the trio has joined the production team of the musical, which chronicles the life of African musician and political activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
The glitzy partnership will hopefully bring in the same star power that Oprah Winfrey‘s name did for ‘The Color Purple’ in 2005.
Late last year, The Roots drummer Ahmir ‘?uestlove’ Thompson appealed to 200 of his entertainment industry colleagues via e-mail blast to attend the sold-out limited run of the off-Broadway musical
“It’s uncut. It’s true to the vision. It’s amazing! There is no option. I expect death to be the only reason why you did not see this production,” he wrote in his letter.
He closed the plea with: “Get off your ass and see this now.”
Now that the show is headed to Broadway, it has been given an $11 million makeover and is set to open at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on Nov. 23.
Beloved Tony Award winner Lillias White joined the cast as Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the late Afrobeat legend’s mother.
And when Sahr Ngaujah — who mastered the complex lead role when the show debuted off-Broadway, last year — isn’t working his magic on the masses, Kevin Mambo (right), a two-time Daytime Emmy Award winner takes over the role.