Former Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams discovered the musical “Fela!” five years ago on Broadway and watched it in London on the West End.
And now, Williams portrays the role of Sanda Isadore, the love interest, in the national tour, which stops Tuesday at Arizona State University Gammage Auditorium in Tempe.
“I think this show is amazing, and I really love everything from the dancers coming through the audience as well as the makeup and wardrobes,” Williams said.
Williams also said the message should resonate with today’s audience and culture.
“Even in love, there is struggle and even when you stand up for what you believe in, you shouldn’t have to compromise,” she said.
“Fela!” is based on the events and life of Nigerian composer and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti. And the plot revolves around the days when he was the target of 1,000 government soldiers assigned to end his public performances at the legendary Lagos nightclub The Shrine.
The original production premiere in 2008 off-Broadway moved to Broadway, where it received 11 Tony nominations and won three awards. In addition, “Fela!” is co-produced by Jay-Z and Will and Jada Smith.
For Williams, “Fela!” introduces a new generation to Kuti’s music.
“It’s a great Afro beat that’s a wonderful groove, and the lyrics really mean something,” Williams said.
In preparation for her role, Williams talked with the real Sandra Isadore, Fela’s American lover, before she took the stage.
“She was a big part of the Black Panther movement and all about black power, but she was a feminist, too,” Williams said.
“Fela!” marks Williams' fourth Broadway production, which she alternates in between recording her solo albums. She has starred on Broadway in “Aida” and “Chicago” and in the national tour of “The Color Purple.”
“I love doing plays and musicals because it’s one of the purest art forms,” she said. “And I would love to do an original show where I create a role.”
Since being a part of “Fela!,” Williams has learned so much on stage.
“You know, every time I step on stage to do a role, I’m learning and growing as a performer and that’s my mission,” she said.