I went to see the new musical Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical at London’s Lyric Theatre, with low expectations, knowing nothing about the man’s life and only a handful of his songs. But two and a half hours later, I left the theatre as a new Bob Marley fan, with huge respect for the part he had in changing history forever. And that is what I love about theatre – it encourages you to see stories told that normally you would not have any interest in learning about. And then if it pulls you in, you spend the next few days learning all there is to know about the person and their story.
Robert Nesta Marley was born in 1945 in rural Jamaica to a father who wasn’t around and a mother who eventually couldn’t afford to keep him, packing him off to stay with relatives who treated him much as a slave. But Bob Marley found comfort in music by 1962 had formed a vocal group called The Wailers. By the sixties, with only small-scale success, the band were encouraged to create songs with a more westernised rock and roll sound rather than reggae and despite some reluctance, they blended the two genres perfectly so as to actually promote reggae music to a mass market.
The band shot to fame and Marley used his songwriting power to write political songs which caused him trouble and even had him shot, days before a concert, in a warning not to perform. Of course he did anyway, despite the risks, and was even at the forefront of bringing political parties in Jamaica together to ease tension, through his live performances.
Arinzé Kene (Bob Marley) embodies the spirit of one of music’s most significant cultural figures, singing and dancing like he is in a trance. It is clear to see that he takes the enormity of playing such an iconic figure in history very seriously and gives his all in a performance that is exhausting to just watch!
The rest of the cast can’t really be singled out as they are all incredible but Gabrielle Brooks gives a sensational performance as Rita Marley. Each and every performer appears to be living their best life performing in this show and it is clear to see why – the music resonates through your body and you can’t help but to grove along to the heartbeat of the music.
Get Up, Stand Up! features all of Bob Marley’s hit including ‘Exodus’, ‘No Woman No Cry’, ‘Waiting in Vain’, ‘Three Little Birds’, ‘I Shot the Sheriff’, ‘Could You Be Loved’, ‘Redemption Song’ and ‘War’ which fellow protest singer Sinead O’Connor, famously performed on Saturday Night Live, whilst tearing up a photo of the Pope to highlight the sexual abuse of children within the catholic church.
From Trenchtown to the West End, Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical is one show you really shouldn’t miss, whether you are a fan of his work or not. It is an inspirational tale of passion, political transformation and enduring hope (and right now we all need a little bit of hope).
I’ve already booked to go and see the show again and I recommend you do the same! Get tickets from £18.
Reviewed by West End Wilma