Fela!: Abridged


                                   FELA! ABRIDGED
                                         OR
                              THE $112 AFROBEAT CONCERT
                                                            By Gil Varod






            SCENE: THE EUGENE O'NEILL CENTER...


                                   ...which has been fantastically decked
                                   out in an awesome array of Christmas
                                   lights and artwork, to show you how
                                   REALLY REALLY HARD they tried to let
                                   you know that you're not in a
                                   "theater".


                                   And as we all know, a beautifully
                                   decorated theater means that the show
                                   is PERFECT and doesn't need any other
                                   MODIFICATIONS or CUTTING or BETTER
                                   STORYTELLING.  How else could they have
                                   had the time for such ancillary things?


                                   Enter SAHR NGAUJAH as FELA.  
                                   (If the 3:5 odds paid in your favor.)


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            Who wasn't freaked out enough by the audience participation
            in HAIR?


                                   Audience is silent.


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            If you were freaked out by the audience participation in
            HAIR, say "Yeah yeah".


                                   AUDIENCE
                          (timidly)
            ...uh...


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            I am going to make a very disappointed look because you are
            not PARTICIPATING well, AUDIENCE.  Say YEAH YEAH!


                                   AUDIENCE
                          (timidly)
            ...yeah... yeah...


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
                          (oh no his "disappointed look"
                           now "looks" even more
                           "disappointed"!)
            That was awful.  Now you're all going to stand up.  BECAUSE I
            TOLD YOU TO, NOT BECAUSE OF YOUR OWN VOLITION!  If you don't
            we'll wait.  I mean it.  This show is 2 and a half hours, and
            it used to be 3.  So I have extra time budgeted.


                                   Audience awkwardly gets up.


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            Now you're going to dance.  I'm going to shout out directions
            and you're going to shake your butt in that direction.  This
            will KILL lots of TIME.


                                   AUDIENCE
            Aren't I paying to watch other people do this?


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            I'm going to bring the rest of the ensemble onto the stage
            and into the audience, and they're going to do a half hour of
            variations on different ways of butt-shaking.
                          (angrily)
            DANCE WITH THEM.


                                   BROADWAY PRODUCER WILL SMITH
                          (gets jiggy)
            Now that's what I'm talkin' `bout!


                                   AUDIENCE
                          (covering eyes)
            Why do you keep blinding me with these lights?


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            So that you can't see what's happening onstage right now. 
            Which is basically me gratuitously pretending to play the
            saxophone while we hope to hell that these numbers stand
            alone and in place of a PLOT.


                                   AUDIENCE
            Can't you hold off on the "endless concert" part till the
            middle of the show?  Like in Jersey Boys?  So we get to know
            you fir--


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            IT SHOULD BE CLEAR BY NOW THAT THIS IS NOT JERSEY BOYS!


                                   Afrobeat goes on for a half an hour. 
                                   Which is about the amount it takes for
                                   it to all sound the same when they're
                                   songs you've never heard before.


                                   PAUL SIMON, DAVE MATTHEWS
                                   THE FOUR SEASONS, AND
                                   PROBABLY A FEW OF YOUR
                                   FAVORITE BANDS TOO
            It's nothing against Afrobeat.  Most of the songs by each of
            us sound the same if you listen to three albums worth for the
            very first time.


                                   ENSEMBLE
                          (insanely high energy despite
                           endless repetitiveness!)
            Hey we found a new type of choreograph--
            No, wait, this is just us shaking our asses again.


                                   AUDIENCE
                          (overwhelmed by their senses)
                          (also by endless Afrobeat)
            AAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            Excellent.  I'm glad you've all gotten to know me.


                                   AUDIENCE
            I DON'T KNOW YOU AT ALL!  YOU DANCED FOREVER AND THAT'S IT!


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            It's 8:40.  Really.  So let's start the story...
            ...
            But FIRST I'll sing a song about how things are bad and how
            we ought to have them be not bad.  


                                   Subtitles mercifully appear on the
                                   screen to help you with his thick
                                   accent.


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            Then I'll tell you about the time I met this girl--


                                   Enter female love interest.


                                   SAYCON SENGBLOH
            Hi Fela, I'm finally another character besides you in this
            musical.  I think you should learn about life from books--


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            --who I immediately said goodbye to and never saw again.


                                   SAYCON SENGBLOH
                          (fading away into ensemble)
            What the...


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            So here's another song I wrote.  It's........................
            .............................................................
            Yes!  An Afrobeat song!  
            It also talks about how things are bad, and how we ought to
            have them be not bad.


                                   Subtitles don't appear.


                                   AUDIENCE
                          (now having major difficulty
                           with Pidgin English)
            WAIT WHERE DID THE SUBTITLES GO?
            PLEASE BRING THEM BACK!


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
                          (singing)
            WHITE COLONIALISTS ARE BAD
            WHITE COLONIALISTS ARE BAD
            WHITE
            WHITE
            WHITE COLONIALISTS ARE BAD.


                                   THE FANTASTIC ONSTAGE BAND
            Um... we're practically all white.  Maybe we should play out
            of the audience's view?  In the pit??


                                   DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER/
                                   CONCEIVER BILL T. JONES
            MAYBE YOU SHOULD SHAKE YOUR BUTT SOME MORE!


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            Now I'll tell you something about myself because you were all
            so good.  I had a mom, she was fantastic, but she's dead now.


                                   We see his mom projected in one of
                                   those Harry Potter moving pictures that
                                   plays the same 5-second moving image
                                   loop, over and over.


                                   LILLIAS WHITE
                          (as a ghost)
            I am Fela's Mom.  You might think that I'm here to do
            something to propel a plot, but you'd be sorely mistaken. 
            Instead, I'm going to sing a song about how things are bad,
            but they ought to be good.


                                   She DOES.


                                   PROJECTIONS
                          (show us the only bits of
                           history we'll actually learn)


                                   PACE
                          (drags)


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            Oh crap, intermission.  Cliffhangers belong here.  Hey Bill
            T. Jones, maybe something could ACTUALLY HAPPEN here?


                                   ENSEMBLE
            You could use any one of us so it's not a one-man show anym--


                                   DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER/
                                   CONCEIVER BILL T. JONES
            NO.  What about when Fela ran for PRESIDENT?  Imagine if
            instead of WHITE PEOPLE for president of Nigeria, there was
                          (wink)
            A BLACK PRESIDENT.


                                   BROADWAY PRODUCER WILL SMITH
            Now that's what I'm talkin' `bout!
            ...Whoa it's weird to see my name with that title.


                                        OH BOY, WILL FELA BECOME THE
                                        BLACK PRESIDENT?!?!?!?!?






            SCENE: ACT TWO.


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            Nope, I didn't become President.  Hmm.  If only my dead
            mother was alive.  She'd know what to do.


                                   LILLIAS WHITE
                          (as a ghost)
            Fela, here's what I can tell you.  In the form of a song,
            where I say how things are bad, and how we ought to have them
            be not bad.


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            But mother, I wrote that song.


                                   LILLIAS WHITE
            Why would you actually mention that?  You wrote almost every
            song in this musical.


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            But my songs don't move plot!  How can I move plot?


                                   LILLIAS WHITE
            Tell us about a time you took a crap.


                                   He DOES.


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            Did that help?


                                   LILLIAS WHITE
            Uh... not so much.


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            How about I tell everyone about how I have like a dozen
            wives?


                                   ENSEMBLE
            We are his dozen wives.


                                   BROADWAY PRODUCER WILL SMITH
            Yeah, that's what I'm talkin'--


                                   BROADWAY PRODUCER       
                                   JADA PINKETT SMITH
            *Ahem*?


                                   BROADWAY PRODUCER WILL SMITH
            I mean, 
            "A dozen wives?  How come?"


                                   DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER/
                                   CONCEIVER BILL T. JONES
            Remember?  The dozen wives?  From the History of Fela Kuti?


                                   AUDIENCE
                          (perking up)
            No!  But does this mean I'm going to finally learn something
            about this amazing man and what he--


                                   DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER/
                                   CONCEIVER BILL T. JONES
            EVERYBODY DANCE MORE!  And Sahr, why don't you sing another
            endless non-dramatic song about how things are bad and how we
            ought to have them be not bad.


                                   DANCING
                          (happens)


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            And around 10 PM, that was the point where LOTS OF TERRIBLE
            THINGS HAPPENED for the first time all night in a PLAY THAT
            TAKES PLACE IN TROUBLED TROUBLED NIGERIA.  


                                   Actual exposition finally happens,
                                   but only via projections.


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            Also, my mother died.


                                   AUDIENCE
            Your mother's already dead.  That was like thing #1 you said
            in the beginning.


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            No, but you see, she's dead *now*.


                                   AUDIENCE
            Of course she's dead *now*, it's 2009.


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            No, but it's 1977 at this fictional concert you're at.


                                   AUDIENCE
            And you said your mother died in the very beginning of the
            show.  Likely because you wanted to use her as an excuse for
            songs of yours being randomly sung.  Three separate times.


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            Well let's say there's Timeline A, which is this fictional
            concert that you're at.  And within Timeline A, I'm talking
            about Timeline B, which is my past as-of Timeline A. 
            In Timeline B, my mother just now died.  
            In Timeline A, my mother died at the beginning of the concert
            or beforehand.  
            We have to go back to Timeline A to keep Biff from stealing
            the Sports Almanac in Timeline B, or else... 
            I just confused myself.


                                   YOUR SENSES
                          (overloaded)


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            If only I had someone to interact with, ANY OTHER CHARACTER
            AT ALL...


                                   SAYCON SENGBLOH
            What if I came into the story again, maybe even as a
            different charac--


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            I guess I'll have to TRAVEL DOWN INTO THE DEATHWORLD TO GO
            SEE MY MOTHER.  All of three minutes after she died.  I'm
            very impatient.


                                   Everybody screams and shakes their
                                   butts as the stage is redesigned to
                                   become "El Dia De Los Muertos" meets
                                   "Disney's Haunted Mansion".


                                   Lillias White grandiosely stands in
                                   what seems to be a telephone booth on a
                                   ladder.


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            Oh mother, I have spent ten minutes of absolutely unnecessary
            stage time dancing among ensemble members in blacklight to
            ask you the question: do I have your blessing to leave
            Nigeria?


                                   LILLIAS WHITE
            No.


                                   SAHR NGAUJAH
            I guess this was all pretty gratuitous then.  MORE DANCING!


                                   Chorus enters onstage holding those
                                   weird white coffins from the minimalist
                                   2006 Sweeney Todd revival.


                                   PROJECTIONS
            Fela eventually died somehow or other.


                                   DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER/
                                   CONCEIVER BILL T. JONES
            THE END!  LET'S DO MORE OF MY CHOREOGRAPHY!


                                   AUDIENCE
            Didn't he die of AIDS?  Wasn't he an AIDS activist or
            something?


                                   DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER/
                                   CONCEIVER BILL T. JONES
            Not important.  


                                   AUDIENCE
            It was in every single press release!


                                   DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER/
                                   CONCEIVER BILL T. JONES
            What, suddenly you think you know something about Fela Kuti?


                                   AUDIENCE
            No, but I just spent 150 minutes at a Broadway show based on
            his life.


                                   DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER/
                                   CONCEIVER BILL T. JONES
            So?


                                   AUDIENCE
            So...
            Shouldn't I?


                                        BLACKOUT.

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