SPAC Swaps In Musical About Afrobeat Pioneer Fela Kuti For Cancelled YAMATO Show

'Fela! The Concert,' a stripped-down version of the Tony Award-winning musical 'Fela!,' will play at the Saratoga venue on July 29.

Fela! The Concert
Duain Richmond and dancers in a performance of 'Fela! The Concert'. (Aric Thompson)

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) announced on July 3 a change to its summer global music lineup. Fela! The Concert, a stripped-down version of the Tony Award-winning, Afrobeat-inspired musical Fela!will replace YAMATO: The Drummers of Japan at SPAC on Monday, July 29. YAMATO, which would’ve featured performances on traditional Japanese taiko drums of all sizes, had to cancel its US tour due to a denial of its visa by US Citizenship and Immigration Services. “It’s a great shame that a group like YAMATO, with a 20-year touring history—including many previous visits to the US—has been denied a visa, depriving our region of a unique and powerful performance,” says Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of SPAC. “Nonetheless, we’re incredibly fortunate to have been able to secure, on the same night, a performance of Fela! The Concert.”

Being able to enjoy Fela! The Concert instead of YAMATO is certainly no loss. This concert version of the 2010 hit Broadway musical Fela! chronicles the life and career of Fela Kuti, the Nigerian musical prodigy and father of Afrobeat, a mix of jazz, funk and traditional African rhythms and harmonies. This vibrant, upbeat show features Kuti’s own eclectic music and powerful, often politically-inspired lyrics. Additionally, some of the cast in this tour of Fela! The Concert were members of the original Broadway show, which took home three Tonys, including awards for Best Choreography and Best Sound Design of a Musical.

Prior to the concert, SPAC will also present a high-energy, final performance of The Performance Project: Youth in Motion, a local, two-week dance intensive that offers local students between the ages of 8 and 12 professional dance instruction by visiting teaching artists from the National Dance Institute in New York City (this additional show is included in the ticket price). This pre-show performance will include 80 young dancers on SPAC’s main stage and is presented in collaboration with the Capital District YMCA, the Saratoga Regional YMCA, and the National Dance Institute.

All tickets to YAMATO: The Drummers of Japan will be automatically transferred to Fela! The Concert. You can also call or email SPAC for a full refund or gift certificate.

Jeff Dingler

Jeff Dingler is saratoga living's Senior Writer. He's a graduate of Skidmore College and a professional musician.


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