Kwame Kwei-Armah, the artistic director at Baltimore’s Center Stage, has penned the theater company’s newest musical, “Marley,” based on the life and music of Bob Marley.
The musical focuses on the songs created and events that took place within Marley’s two years of exile following a 1976 attempt on the his life. Included in the events are the reggae legend’s “Smile Jamaica” concert two days after the attack and the “One Love” peace concert in 1978.
Amongst those portrayed in the musical are the then-Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley, Marley’s wife, Rita, his mistress, Cindy Breakspeare, as well as Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and Marley friend and colleague Neville Garrick.
Mitchell Brunings, a new singer from the Netherlands, found himself auditioning for the role of Marley after Kwei-Armah heard his rendition of “Redemption Song” on the “The Voice of Holland” by way of YouTube. The up-and-comer shared his feelings about performing in the wake of Baltimore’s unrest with The Washington Post.
It’s been affecting us all. It’s not a small thing to be in a Bob Marley play and have all this going on around you. If you take any of these Bob Marley songs and cut it with the news footage, it just makes sense.
The writer/director Kwei-Armah also gave his thoughts on the parallels between his musical and the current events.
The irony does not escape… Driving in and seeing the National Guard every three feet, it’s painful. And it’s weird that we are doing a play about a country and a city, Kingston, that was essentially at war, while Bob was seeking peace.