The 1996 academy award-winning When We Were Kings documentary, which focused on Muhammad Ali and specifically his Rumble in the Jungle heavyweight championship match against George Foreman in 1974, is getting a second life. Hollywood Reporter broke the news on Thursday that the documentary is being adapted into a musical by producer David Sonenberg, and it'll feature a number of R&B classics.
Shelley Marcus has adapted the book for the musical, and the score will feature songs that were originally sung at the Zaire music festival that was organized around the fight, including tracks from James Brown, B.B. King, The Pointer Sisters, The Spinners, Bill Withers, Celia Cruz, and The Fania All-Stars among others. The Fugees 1996 collaboration with A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes, "Rumble in the Jungle," is also set to appear.
"Muhammad Ali was called 'The Greatest of All Time' for good reason," said Sonenberg upon announcing the project. "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."
The musical will also feature depictions of famous promoted Don King, civil rights organizer Stokely Carmichael, author Norman Mailer, and many more, including former military dictator and Democratic Republic of the Congo president Mobutu Sese Seko. "The details of Ali's life are as relevant today as they were 45 years ago," added Sonenberg. "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."