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For Felas Gelan Lambert, theres no place like home

caines | 3/28/2013, 5:30 a.m.

If you missed the Miami premiere of the award-winning musical Fela!, which just closed last weekend after a spectacular run at the Arsht Center, then you may want to hop a jet plane and catch it in another city. Because this show, besides having superb dance and music, tells the inspiring story of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti whose music served as a battle cry for disenfranchised Nigerians. But as the Nigerian-born superstar took his music and message across West Africa and beyond, his critique of his countrys corrupt military government would thrust him into the political limelight and constant danger. After a successful stint on Broadway in New York City, the show is now on tour in the U.S. Later this summer the cast will head to Russia and possibly Germany as well. Among the stars of the show is Gelan Lambert a Miami native who proudly embraces his Haitian roots and says, More important than the applause was coming back home and connecting with everyday people.

Perseverance is the key to success

Lambert has received rave reviews for his performance as JK (rhythm tapper) Ogungun, and has been hailed by the New York Times as the brilliant tap dance artist suigeneris. But before claiming his place on Broadway, Lambert says he put in countless hours to perfect his craft. I started dancing when I was 12 and always had the support of my family and the community, he said. Buena Vista Elementary, Jefferson and Norland Middle were places that helped me grow. Eventually I went to the New World School of the Arts and then on to Juilliard. I am an example of 18 years of hard work and I think what makes people most proud of me is the fact that I stuck it out. During his hours away from the theater, Lambert has traveled throughout South Florida, hoping to encourage the next generation to follow their dreams, including lecturing and teaching contemporary Afro-Fusion classes. Hes also participated in several meet and greets where he says he simply wanted to say thank you. While I was at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, a Haitian woman that I didnt even know came up to me, hugged me and said I was a positive example for kids from this community, he said. Another man told he how glad he was that I have remained connected to my roots. One couple that I hadnt seen since I was a little boy traveled several hours just to encourage me. They all really made me feel good. When I was on stage I could hear the messages of my teachers and kept having flashbacks of being in class, trying to get the technique down. The many lessons that I learned are now coming to fruition and its a wonderful feeling. Lambert says he isnt sure what role he will play in terms of his relationship to Miami and the Haitian community but he promises, Ill be back soon. Fela!, aptly described as a religious experience, a history lesson, a theatrical masterpiece and a political rally, also features veteran actor Adesola Osakalumi in the title role, Melanie Marshall in the role of Fela Kutis mother and most recently Michelle Williams, formerly of Destinys Child, who plays Felas love interest, Sandra Isadore. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com