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Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical - Lyric Theatre, :London

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 8 / 12 / 2021

Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical - Lyric Theatre, :London

It's surprising there haven't been earlier attempts to make the story of Bob Marley into a stage show. But, at last, nearly 40 years after his death, 'Get Up, Stand Up!' has arrived in London's West End - setting Shaftesbury Avenue throbbing with Marley's deep reggae beats! The Bob Marley story is a great one. Born Robert Nesta Marley in 1945, he rose from the slums of Kingston, Jamaica against difficult odds. He was abandoned by his white colonial father and later by his black mother but still managed to assert himself in the powerful and competitive music scene of his country before getting caught up in political feuds during the 1970s. However, the writer of this show, Lee Hall (famous for his 'Billy Elliot' and 'Rocketman' screenplays), doesn't shed as much light on Marley's story - or create as much dramatic momentum as might have been expected. That biographical aspect of this show does at times seem almost dull - which is disappointing. But of course the music is just fantastic! And, with the star of the show, Arinze Kene, the producers have found a wonderfully passionate, energetic, charismatic embodiment of Marley with a powerful stage presence, a luminous smile and a soulful voice. His rousing rendition of 'Redemption Song' is a show stopper – as tears mingle with the sweat from his brow as he laments the injustice and agonies of black history. All the greatest Marley hits are here, too. 'Lively Up Yourself' and 'Could You Be Loved' kick things off - and by the time we hear 'Jamming”' just before the interval, the audience are all doing what the show's title tells them to! “Babylon” maintains the energy in the second half and the finale – with a reprise of 'Could You Be Loved' and 'Get Up Stand Up' sees the whole house on their feet again. Bob Marley's life story is too complicated and troubled for a 'Mamma Mia!' style approach of just ticking off all the hits. But maybe this show could have been just a little more powerful. Director Clint Dyer and writer Lee Hall have soft-pedalled Marley's infidelities and mistreatment of long-suffering wife Rita (played admirably by Gabrielle Brooks) - which is understandable in an entertainment production. Shelley Maxwell's choreography is fairly rudimentary (lots of jiving, some shanking) and the set design by Chloe Lamford is basic - essentially two walls of pine speakers which roll back and forth. But it is the great sound coming out of those speakers that is special. For the whole audience, that sweet, strong, trademark and very original reggae music made everything worthwhile. It was what they came for - and nobody left disappointed!

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Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical - Lyric Theatre, :London

Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical - Lyric Theatre, :London

Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical - Lyric Theatre, :London

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