Last weekend, I took my mom to see the new Bob Marley musical at Center Stage in Baltimore, MD. We were very excited to see this musical premiere written and directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah.
When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised that the lobby was decked out in all things celebrating Bob Marley and the political climate in the 1970s: dirt on the floor, reggae DJ, dancers, graffiti, political posters (Jamaica Labour Party vs. People's National Party), Red Stripe beer being sold at the bar, a shack to chill in, etc. Transforming the lobby like they did for One Night In Miami, is something that I think works well for Center Stage because it really adds a great dimension to the play experience.
The mood was set and all we needed to do was enjoy the show. And boy did we enjoy the show. The music was nostalgic, the story line was just right. The actors were energetic. But I couldn't wait to see newcomer Mitchell Brunings perform Bob's songs...it was as if you were listening to Bob himself...Mitchell was that good! I was impressed (check him as he performs Redemption Song below). The rest of the cast members danced in the aisles and the actors who played Michael Manley (PNP leader) and Edward Seaga (JLP leader) were imposing as they stood on opposite sides in the mezzanine until they appeared on stage. Saycon Sengbloh who played Rita Marley and Shayne Powell who played Malakai, Bob's close friend were great. Mom and I had the pleasure of meeting them after the show in the lobby area. They were very cool!
Overall, I thought that this premiere was simply FANTASTIC. We danced along to the music and at the end, folks were invited up on stage to have a big love fest. Some critics may say that the script was a little light in showcasing Bob's life. But his music told the story of his life and the political climate at the time. We knew he was a flawed man (hardly faithful to his wife, girlfriends and children all over the place) but one can't deny that he paved the way musically and placed Jamaica on the map. Even 34 years after his death, his music is still timely.
So, if you're in the area and looking to enjoy the music of Jamaica's iconic singer, then this musical is a must see! I hope that it makes its way to other cities for other theater goers to enjoy! One LOVE!
After surviving an assassination attempt in 1976, Marley left Jamaica for London, where he spent nearly two years in self-imposed exile. Chronicling the events surrounding this earth-shaking moment, Marley tells the story of a man transformed into one of the 20th Century's most important cultural figures. Set in the soundscape of an era, this new musical weaves together the life and music of a man who, to heal himself, first healed his homeland.
Mitchell Brunings - Bob Marley
Luke Forbes - Tek Life, enforcer for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)
Don Guillory - Don Taylor, Bob's manager
John Patrick Hayden - Chris Blackwell, record producer
Khetanya Jari Henderson - Diane Jobson, Bob's lawyer
David Heron - Tony Welsh, enforcer for the People's National Party (PNP)
Jonaathan Hooks - Family Man, musician
Crystal Joy - Judy Mowatt, I-Three singer
Mykal Kilgore - Stevie Wonder, musical superstar
Michael Luwoye - Peter Tosh, on of the Wailers
John-Andrew Morrison - Claudie Massop, enforcer for the JLP
Ano Okera - Don Letts, music producer
Howard W. Overshown - Michael Manley, Prime Minister, leader of the PNP
Shayne Powell - Malakai, Bob's close friend
Michael Rogers - Rasta Elder
Saycon Sengloh - Rita Marley, Bob's wife and I-Three singer
Jaime Lincoln Smith - Neville Garrick, Bob's art director
Damian Thompson - Bunny Wailer, one of the Wailers
Michaela Waters - Cindy Breakspeare, Miss World
Susan Kelechi Watson - Marcia Griffiths, I-Three singer