The costumes and stage design of "Fela!", the Off Broadway musical by Bill T. Jones, featuring the story of the Afrobeat star Fela Kuti, bear the signature of New York-based designer Marina Draghici, who, with the support of RCINY, invited three Romanian street artists - Nuclear Fairy, Irlo and Omar to paint the walls of the theater with the vision to restitute the legendary Shrine of Fela Kuti.
The September 4 premiere of show was received with outstanding reviews by the American press, which has also praised the set and costume designs of the Romanian artists:
"...the ascendancy of the music in “Fela!,” and the three-dimensional translation of it by Mr. Jones and his vibrant design team... The show is set in the Shrine, Fela’s nightclub in Lagos (vividly recreated by Marina Draghici), on the night of what he says will be his last performance there." - BEN BRANTLEY, The New York Times
"A visceral experience that captures Fela's spirit... The man and the country were forever linked, however, a theme emphasized as a map of Africa morphs into Fela's face." - Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News
"...an environmental staging, lining the theater walls with shanty-town corrugated iron and splashing them with naif images, Miro-esque shapes, celestial rays and iconic portraits of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Funmilayo... All this is deftly integrated with Peter Nigrini's video projections to create a show that's invigoratingly messy, visceral and transporting." - David Rooney, Variety
"Marina Draghici deserves special acclaim for the mural-laden set as well as the many striking, colorful costumes. She has surrounded the audience with Nigerian folk-art murals, political graffiti from the 1960s and '70s, and several projection screens on which newsreel-type footage appears. Subtitles above the stage ensure the slangy lyrics and Nigerian-accented English are clearly understood. - Associated Press
"Cheeky Scenery... The spectacular Romanian designer Marina Draghici has created cheekily effective scenery and unsparingly lush costumes... Peter Nigrini's video combines glimpses of tumultuous crowds with riotously Protean abstractions, including some witty figures and shapes worthy of Miro and Klee." - John Simon, Bloomberg News
"The theater on the second floor of 37 Arts is a riot of color and sound." - Elizabeth Zimmer, Metro New York
"[Bill T. Jones] has created a world that explodes with color, motion and texture." - Susan Reiter, New York Press
Read all reviews at www.felaoffbroadway.com/press.html
[Image above: Bill T. Jones in front of a large portrait of Fela Kuti, part of the setting painted by the three Romanian artists. Photo by Richard Termine for The New York Times.
Below: Images from the performance and set details. Photos by: 1-8 by Richard Termine for The New York Times; 9-13 by Andra Matzal for Cotidianul]