My friend Alison and I have season tickets to the shows at Center Stage, though sadly her move to DC means we’re not reupping for next year. I need a new theatre going buddy. Last night was our final show of the 2014-2015 season. It is a new musical called Marley written by Center Stage’s Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah, who is also a playwright. As you may have guessed by the title the show is about the life of Bob Marley and features his music.
I love what Kwame Kwei-Armah has done as Artistic Director since taking over at Center Stage in 2011 and really enjoyed Beneatha’s Place, the last play that he wrote that was produced there. However, I was skeptical about this show because I’m typically not a fan of jukebox musicals. I usually find that it’s a real stretch to create a good story surrounding pre-existing music, and I’m just a much bigger fan of shows that feature new music.
I’m pleased to say that I was completely wrong. Marley was fantastic. It’s by far the largest production I have ever seen done at Center Stage. The cast was wonderful, and the set was really well done. The entire production was great. Unlike some other jukebox musicals I have seen, the music in this one didn’t really feel forced at all. Most of the songs were sung in the story in a more organic way at points where Bob Marley was either writing songs or performing them. Since the show is the story of his life and so much of his music is based on his experiences even in the second act where they did do more with having the characters sing the songs to express their feelings it still felt like it fit the story. There was a duet between Bob Marley and his wife Rita where he sang parts of “No Woman, No Cry” and she sang parts of “Waiting in Vain” that had a real showtunes vibe to it while still feeling completely like the music written by Bob Marley. I adored it and wish a cast recording existed for this show just so I could listen to it again.
I don’t know if Kwame Kwei-Armah has any ambitions to try and get this show to Broadway or perhaps the West End in London since he’s British, but I definitely think it would make a fantastic Broadway show. The production at Center Stage runs through June 14, so if you’re anywhere near Baltimore I highly recommend that you go.