Bob Marley Bio-Musical Sets Baltimore Premiere

Bob Marley P 2014

Bob Marley P 2014

Writer-director Kwame Kwei-Armah's production opens May 7 and is the first stage project to use the reggae superstar's music to explore his life.

The godfather of reggae will live again when Marley has its world premiere at Center Stage in Baltimore next month.

Written and directed by award-winning British playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah (Elmina's Kitchen), the new musical featuring songs by Bob Marley tells the story of a pivotal moment of his life in the late 1970s, when he returned to Jamaica after two years of self-imposed exile in London following an assassination attempt. The show uses events surrounding that homecoming to chronicle the musician's transformation into a 20th century cultural icon.

The project marks the first time that Marley's songs have been featured onstage in a biographical context. The musical includes, among others, songs from the albums Exodus, Kaya and Rastaman Vibration, written during the period when the story is set.

The title role will be played by Mitchell Brunings, who became a YouTube sensation after performing Marley's songs on the Dutch version of The Voice.

The cast also includes Broadway regular Saycon Sengbloh (Motown: The Musical, Fela!) as Rita Marley; Mykal Kilgore as Stevie Wonder, Crystal Joy as backup singer Judy Mowatt; and Ano Okero as producer and filmmaker Don Letts. Other real-life figures portrayed in the show include Peter Tosh (Michael Luwoye), Island Records founder Chris Blackwell (John Patrick Hayden), Bunny Wailer (Damian Thompson), Marley's art director Neville Garrick (Jaime Lincoln Smith) and Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley (Howard W. Overshown).

The production features music direction by Jason Webb, choreography by Germaul Barnes, scenic design by Neil Patel and costumes by ESosa.

Suzette Newman and Blackwell are producing for Stageplay. The Baltimore engagement runs May 7 through June 14, and while no plans for the project have been announced beyond the premiere, theater insiders are speculating about a future commercial life in New York or London if Marley is well-received.