Show History



Timbuktu! contains a book by Luther Davis; music by George Forrest, Robert Wright and Alexander Borodin; and lyrics by Forrest and Wright.  It is a direct adaptation of the Broadway musical, Kismet, which featured the exact same creative team.  That musical, in turn, is based on the 1911 Edward Knoblock play of the same name.  Borodin was never technically involved with the project; Forrest and Wright decided to base their score off of the Russian Romantic composer's music.  The major change from Kismet to Timbuktu! is the movement of the setting to West Africa, which allowed for the casting of African-American performers.  The team copied over the entire score from the previous musical, doing some subtle reorchestrations and adding in some new songs based on African folk music.


Timbuktu! premiered at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on Broadway.  It ran from March 1, to September 10, 1978, with 221 total performances and starred Eartha Kitt as Shaleem-La-Lume, Gilbert Price as The Mansa of Mali and Melba Moorse as Marisnah.  Trinidadian director Geoffrey Holder, known for his work on The Wiz and a revival of Waiting for Godot that featured an all black cast, directed, choreographed and designed the costumes for the production.


  • Timbuktu! was nominated for four Tony Awards in 1978, including Most Innovative Production of a Revival.  It was also nominated for two Drama Desk Awards the same year.
  • Timbuktu! is a multi-ethnic, revised version of Kismet set in Africa, instead of Arabia.