Tag Archive: Fela Kuti

Michelle Williams

Tony Award Winning Fela! the musical returns to Chicago and this time Destiny’s Child Michelle Williams is along for the ride.

Produced by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Jada Pinkett Smith, Fela! follows the life of Nigerian singer Fela Kuti battling AIDS and government soldiers while performing at a nightclub called The Shrine in Lagos. Bill T. Jones wrote the book and choreographed the show that was nominated for eleven Tony Awards the year it debuted Off-Broadway.

Illinois native singer Michelle Williams plays Sandra Isadore, Kuti’s lover.

After conquering the charts in the trio Destiny’s Child she released two gospel recordings collaborating with Shirley Caesar on one track. She moved into the dance realm with the album Unexpected and the song “We Break the Dawn” became a club hit.

Her musical background continues to grow after appearing in Aida and The Color Purple for its national tour.

Williams took on television as an HIV-positive executive on the UPN sitcom Half & Half and also appearing on Fox’s Celebrity Duets.

We talked to the independent woman before her arrival for Fela!

Jerry Nunn: Hey, Michelle. You have had a busy week.

Michelle Williams: I know, honey. Actually it has been a busy couple of weeks.
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Melanie Marshall

Melanie Marshall has crossed the pond to perform as Fela Kuti’s mother Funmilayo in the touring production of Fela! Audiences now can witness the presence and operatic notes that Melanie brings to the role. We learned all about her background after attending this eye popping stellar show based on the Nigerian innovator’s incredible life.

Jerry Nunn: Good morning, Melanie. So you are British?

Melanie Marshall: I am British born!

JN: Did you study theatre there?

MM: No, I studied classical singing at the Royal College of Music. I stumbled into musical theatre almost by accident. Well, not by accident but I was asked to audition for my first show Carmen Jones, which is a black version of Carmen. I understudied the role of Cindy Lou. I got to sing in that and quite liked it. Afterwards I did the Glyndebourne’s version of Porgy and Bess.

JN: Did you see the newest version yet?
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The week began with The Magnetic Fields at The Vic. I had interviewed openly gay singer Stephin. He was a tough interview along with a lot of off key notes and sluggish performance really brought down the live show. People did complain about his skipping songs after although I heard the Tuesday concert was better. I was busy sampling Monkey Shoulder rum that night at The Bedford so I was going bananas!

Fela! opened on Wednesday to a lively frenetic crowd. The story of Nigerian Fela Kuti was educational, entertaining, and exciting. The audience was dancing and chanting to the inventor of the afrobeat long after his passing from AIDS. Don’t miss this show if you have a chance. I had breakfast with the actress that played his mother and she is just lovely with a hypnotizing voice.

About Face Theatre’s annual fundraiser went to the prom this time with the Wonka Ball. Check out my photo coverage on this very website.
The same night I headed up Skokie to meet my comedic friend Paula Poundstone and see her show. She was truly funny poking at the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus in the balcony. She didn’t know how to end the show so it lasted forever but that was joke in itself where she said we were all trapped with her!

I thought I was going to be late to see kinetic Candis Cayne at Taverna. We made it though and half of the community did too. It was the show to see where Candis even stopped traffic by lip synching in the street!

Saturday it was a ChicagoPride 10th anniversary celebration at Nookies, casino time with Beverly Hills Housewife Kyle Richards, and Joan Rivers show being taped for Showtime in St. Charles. Rivers kissed me after the show and gave me props for always promoting her projects.

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