Petra Shepherd is mesmerised by this exhilarating and energetic show about of the world’s greatest and most influential musician
Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical, is an explosive new production celebrating the immense life and timely message of Jamaican soul rebel Bob Marley, from a life of poverty to visionary international superstar. The show recently opened at London’s beautiful, newly refurbished Lyric Theatre and I was lucky enough to catch one of the early performances
We’ve all grown up with Marley’s powerful songs, a soundtrack of our early lives and the musical doesn’t disappoint. From the hills of rural Jamaica, armed only with his overwhelming talent and righteous beliefs, Bob Marley applied himself with resolute determination to achieve international acclaim for his prophetic musical message – a gospel of love and unity. With unlimited access to Marley’s magical, revolutionary songs and a book by award-winning Lee Hall (Billie Elliott), acclaimed director Clint Dyer channels the creative quest and spiritual power of a universally embraced icon.
The production brings a dynamic company of performers, led by Arinzé Kene as Marley that fuse with the finest reggae musicians to bring this exhilarating story of struggle, freedom and transformation from Trenchtown to the West End. Crucial fellow soul rebels in the cast include Rita Marley (Gabrielle Brooks) and the I Three and his inspiring brothers in arms, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Lee ‘Scratch Perry’. Arinze Kene is sensational as Marley, with the voice, mannerisms and magnetic presence that you instantly know and love, he is Bob. Gabrielle Brooks is equally powerful and I was mesmerised by their early rendition of “Is this Love”.
‘It’s not all that glitters is gold, half the story has never been told’ they’ve certainly done an excellent job with this performance. Marley’s story is so fascinating that it is difficult to contain it all within a 2-hour 45-minute time frame. Get Up, Stand Up! doesn’t shy away from Bob’s infidelity and the Jamaican political violence where Bob survived an assassination attempt in 1976, leading him to two years of exile in London, where he recorded the “Exodus” and “Kaya” albums (his house in Chelsea got a Blue Plaque last year).
The show, one of the biggest to open in the West End this year has been created by those who knew him best, his family led by his daughter the award-winning reggae artist Cedella Marley and from his crucial island record days Suzette Newman and Chris Blackwell.
The original set comprises of sound systems and the choreography by Shelly Maxwell is energetic and excellent. I Lost myself to the rhythm of ‘Exodus’, ‘No Woman No Cry’, ‘Waiting in Vain’, ‘Three Little Birds’, ‘I Shot the Sheriff’, ‘Could You Be Loved’, ‘Redemption Song’ and many more. The Jamaican global superstar died tragically young of cancer in 1981, aged 36, and although I’ve been to Jamaica and heard his music played on every street corner, this is probably the closest you can get to experiencing a Marley concert today.
Get Up, Stand Up! is a rousing night (all the audience were on their feet, myself included during the finale dancing away as the live band played the title anthem) The Bob Marley Musical is not just a jukebox musical, it would make Bob Marley proud and does justice to his legacy – it is also just the tonic we all need right now. Lively up yourself and experience the sensational story of Jamaica’s rebel superstar.
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All Photos by Craig Sugden