Calling all fans of Bob Marley; don’t sleep on the new stage production Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical now showing at the Lyric Theatre in London. Louise Chandler went along to catch the show and shares her thoughts.

Bob Marley
Arinzé Kene as Bob Marley
Image Credit: Craig Sugden

Forty years since the music legend died and his influence on pop culture and Society at large is still strong. We hear Bob Marley’s music on radio, TV adverts, film soundtracks and even on our curated personal playlists. But for many, in particular, the younger generations, not much is known about the man behind the music.

Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical is a new West End show that tackles in a big way, the challenges, motivations and personality of the man who introduced reggae music to the wider masses. Directed by Clint Dyer, Bob’s musical catalogue is celebrated and is used as a backdrop to tell his life story in a way that is heartfelt, engaging, and emotive.

“One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain”

As you would expect, the show gives a true sound system experience. From the get-go, music direction by Sean Green is on point. The ornate Lyric Theatre auditorium gently pulsates and vibrates with the bass-filled beats, rhythms and soundtrack of Bob and The Wailers inviting you to dance and sing along. It’s hard to resist because “One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain” – famous words by the man himself.

Bob Marley
Arinzé Kene as Bob Marley and Company Image Credit: Craig Sugden

The production takes us on a journey where we meet a young Bob Marley who is sent to live with his father. He goes on to meet friends Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh (as a teenager), forms a rock steady group, and meets wife (and backing singer to be) Rita Marley.

 

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The audience witnesses his identity struggles as a mixed-race man, his subsequent rise to fame with famous songs, performances and time spent in London. You’ll be absorbed into a world of political and social unrest, religious fervour for Rastafarianism, friendship fall outs and infidelity.

Watching the show depict Bob’s declining health is hard to see but it doesn’t distract from the story of a man who was on a mission to spread righteous beliefs of peace and unity.

You’ll be absorbed into a world of political and social unrest, religious fervour for Rastafarianism, friendship fall outs and infidelity.

There’s no denying that it’s a busy narrative to cram into a 150-minute production but it also shows that Bob led a very full life during his 36 years on this earth.

The dialogue and script, written by Lee Hall, has funny moments but at times feels a bit rushed or vague. However, kudos to the wardrobe team. The costumes were incredibly authentic with colours and fabrics by Lisa Duncan that transport you back to the 1970s or 80s.

Bob Marley
Arinzé Kene as Bob Marley and Gabrielle Brooks as Rita Marley Image Credit: Craig Sugden

The two leading characters of Bob (played by Arinzé Kene) and Rita (played by Gabrielle Brooks) were fantastic. They not only embody and personify their counterparts but sing and perform amazingly well. Rita sings ‘No Woman No Cry’, in a way that tells a story and explains her reaction to Bob’s many illegitimate children. A clever way to use such a popular song.

 

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The play draws to a close with images on TV screens which show vivid historical images about the Black lived experience through the decades. It’s a clever way to end the production and serves as a reminder that Bob’s challenges as a mixed-race man still resonate with people nowadays today.

Overall, this is a joyous production. It features Black people singing, dancing and showcases musical and acting talent that is rarely seen on the stage in such a large number. Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical will have you leaving the theatre with feel good vibes. A fitting tribute to Bob Marley’s legacy.


Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical is showing at the Lyric Theatre. Book tickets here

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