Fela! The Musical Sued for $5 million
The critically acclaimed musical that many have come to know and love is under fire.
If you are unfamiliar, Fela! is a musical about the legendary Nigerian musician and political activist named Fela Kuti who’s music inspired his nation and his people. He was a rebel against his corrupt government and he devoted his life to obtaining true freedom.
Fela! on Broadway was choreographed and directed by international choreographer Bill T. Jones and produced by actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith as well as Jay-Z.
It has come to the surface that a writer named Carlos Moore is suing the production for copyright infringement. The Guardian reported that the broadway musical allegedly violates his copyright because it lifted portions of his book and used it in the play’s script verbatim…
Moore wrote the biographical novel, “Fela: This Bitch of a Life,” in 1982 and he claims it is the only authorized biography of the pioneer.
According to the Gothamist, “Fela Kuti personally requested that Moore write his life story, just before he died, and the writer was given access to his friends, family, and personal files—something the writer’s of the musical could have only gotten from his book.”
Gothamist also reported that Moore was offered $4,000 for the rights to turn his book into a musical but he did not accept.
He did however become a wholehearted supporter of the musical when it was created. He saw it when it appeared off-broadway and even appearing on the website, so he was not unaware of the project or the substance it contained.
Moore claims that producers breached an agreement that they made in 2007 to credit him and his book as a source. He seeks damages, a discontinuation of advertising, promotion and sales.
It’s alarming that he made the claim now, in Nov. 2010, when the play has been on Broadway for an entire year already. The play has also been highly successful, which is likely the main reason he asks for so much money in damages.
If Moore’s verbal contract were breached, then it was breached a long time ago. Why did he wait until now to file the lawsuit- now that the play is about to close its doors. He filed the $5 million lawsuit this week in the United District Court in Manhattan.
The moment Fela! went on Broadway from it’s off-broadway season, he could have filed the claim based on his observations. Instead the claim was made yesterday, so close to the musical’s final run on broadway. Fela! will close its doors on Jan. 2, 2011.
This is a discussion in and of itself. Fela! has been highly successful in its one year on Broadway. It has received worldwide attention and three Tony Awards. One may wonder why this multiple-award winning Broadway hit would close its doors at the height of its success.
Ticket sales aren’t too slow. Fela! has already sold about 400,000 tickets in it’s one year on broadway, and it probably isn’t a funding issue because Will Smith, Jada-Pinkett Smith and Jay-Z are financially backing the project.
We can only guess, but it is just odd that a successful broadway play would close it’s doors after one year. Is it a conspiracy against productions about people of color? Who knows? Even “In the Heights” has been on Broadway for three years. The point here though is that time will only tell how things will pan out for Fela! and for Carlos Moore.
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