The legendary “rumble in the jungle” between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire, Africa brings to mind images of two bloodied fighters pushing themselves beyond the limits of endurance. However, the boxing match does not exactly scream musical.
That’s not stopping one producer, David Sonenberg, from trying to put the swing into the sweet science. He is planning to make a musical version of his Academy Award-winning film “When We Were Kings,” a 1996 documentary that captured the ringside drama. The book for the musical will be adapted from the film and written by Shelley Marcus, and the songs will be fR&B classics from the 1974 Zaire music festival. The soundtrack will also include “Rumble In The Jungle”, which was written by The Fugees for the film. A workshop is scheduled for the spring of 2019 with plans for a full stage musical production the following year.
“Muhammad Ali was called ‘The Greatest of All Time’ for good reason,” Sonenberg said in a statement. “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 fight in Zaire is considered to be one of the greatest upsets in sports history. Ali was believed to be outmatched by the more physically intimidating Foreman, but he was able to pull of an eighth-round knockout thanks to his “rope-a-dope” approach to wearing down his opponent.
In addition to Ali and Foreman, the musical will also feature cultural and political figures such as Don King, Stokely Carmichael, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, Howard Cosell, and President Mobutu, and will also have actors portraying musicians such as James Brown, B.B. King, and The Pointer Sister. The Zaire music festival took place directly before the Foreman and Ali fight.