Best Big Splashy Musical - 2012
It's not easy to get a bunch of S.F.'s whitest patrons of the arts out of their seats and dancing, but that's precisely what legendary choreographer Bill T. Jones accomplished with Fela!, a boundlessly funky musical bio of the Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. The sax-heavy 10-piece band alone would have been worth the hefty ticket price, their groovy rhythms and virtuoso solos a too-rare treat for musical-theater audiences. But Sahr Ngaujah's charismatic performance as the title character made the acting every bit as compelling as the music. In his rendering, you saw how the historical figure achieved such popularity — musically, politically, sexually. The boldest choice of all, however, might have been Marina Draghici's expressionist set design, which, with black lights interacting with neon costumes and scenery, truly beamed the audience into another world — one where losing yourself in music is nothing rare.