In 1996, Academy Award-winning documentary When We Were Kings gave viewers a close-up look at Muhammad Ali and his Rumble in the Jungle heavyweight championship match against George Foreman in 1974. Now, the documentary is getting a stage musical treatment thanks to Shelley Marcus and producer David Sonenberg, and we’re hype AF.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Marcus has adapted the book for the musical, with the score featuring R&B hits originally performed at the Zaire music festival that was organized around the fight. Expect to hear tracks by James Brown, B.B. King, The Pointer Sisters, and more, with The Fugees’ ’96 collab with A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes, “Rumble in the Jungle,” also being featured.
“Muhammad Ali was called ‘The Greatest of All Time’ for good reason,” Sonenberg said during the project’s announcement. “Ali went toe to toe with everyone from Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier to Howard Cosell, Norman Mailer, and The Supreme Court of the United States. Ali remains an indisputable cultural icon. Not only was he an extraordinarily gifted athlete, poet, spiritual and political leader, he was certainly one of the most charming, disarming, controversial, and electrifying personalities of all time.”
You can also expect to see Don King, Stokely Carmichael, Miriam Makeba and more portrayed as characters in the musical, as well as Mobutu Sese Seko—military dictator and president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was renamed Zaire from 1971 through 1997 under his rule, as noted by THR.
“The details of Ali’s life are as relevant today as they were 45 years ago,” Sonenberg continued. “Ali’s story, as depicted in When We Were Kings, fuses sports, music, dance, politics, race, and culture in a way that should be compelling to a broad global audience.”
Stage production should reportedly take place sometime in 2020. Read more.