When We Were Kings, the Oscar-winning documentary about Muhammed Ali and George Foreman’s legendary “Rumble in the Jungle,” is being adapted into a Broadway musical.
Held in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1974, the Rumble in the Jungle remains one of the most famous boxing bouts of all time with Ali knocking out Foreman, who was up until then the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. Leon Gast directed When We Were Kings, which was released in 1996 and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary.
When We Were Kings producer David Sonenberg is helming the new musical project and Shelley Marcus is writing the book. Workshop performances are scheduled to start spring 2019, while the full stage musical is expected to premiere in 2020.
The music for When We Were Kings will be drawn from the artists who performed at Zaire 74, a music festival held a few days before the Rumble In the Jungle. Per a statement, When We Were Kings will feature portrayals of several Zaire 74 performers including James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers, the Pointer Sisters, the Spinners, Celia Cruz and the Fania All Stars.
The show will also boast a large cast of characters emphasizing the political and cultural scope of the Rumble in the Jungle. While Ali and Foreman will be at the show’s center, other characters will include infamous boxing promoter Don King, Civil Rights activist Stokely Carmichael, writers Norman Mailer and George Plimpton, sports announcer Howard Cosell and South African signer Miriam Makeba.
“Muhammad Ali was called ‘The Greatest of All Time’ for good reason”, Sonenberg said in a statement. “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 undeniable cultural icon. Not only was he an extraordinarily gifted athlete, poet, spiritual and political leader, but he was certainly one of the most charming, disarming, controversial and electrifying personalities of all time. The details of Ali’s life are as relevant today as they were 45 years ago. 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.”