Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical at Lyric Theatre
Get Up, Stand Up! is an ambitious musical that succeeds fantastically well in its music thanks to some powerful performances by a stunning lead cast, but a frustratingly unfocused script holds it back from being brilliant. It’s not that it doesn’t do Bob Marley himself justice – it certainly touches on most of the aspects relating to his life – but it does so in a way that feels episodic, almost uncertain of itself. In the end, the writing just doesn’t carry much emotional weight. This stands in clear contrast to the often extremely moving songs.
Most of this power results, of course, from Bob Marley’s timeless oeuvre, but also from Arinzé Kene’s dynamic performance as Marley himself. While his voice and acting aren’t an exact look or sound-alike, he does perform in a way that evokes the legend and is instantly memorable. Gabrielle Brooks as Rita Marley is similarly proficient and often manages to dominate the stage entirely, especially in No Woman No Cry, which leaves the audience at the verge of tears.
But no matter how strong the actors and music are, they can only do so much to save an unfocused script. It just tries to do too much – at one point it centres on Marley’s private life, his affairs, and his difficulties with staying true to himself, at other moments it highlights the political dimensions of Marley’s career. Act One ends on a moment of high political tension – only to be dropped for most of Act Two, before it’s again brought up towards the end. As a result, the final moments don’t feel justified or earned, and seem more forced than in actual relation to Marley’s life and message. Quite a pity, given the weight of the message itself.
Be that as it may, Get Up, Stand Up! is still entertaining – especially for Marley fans – due to brilliant musical finesse from all who are involved. With additional support from a strong production by director Clint Dyer (although sound designer Tony Gayle is very liberal with the power of the subwoofers), wonderful set design by Chloe Lamford, and Shelley Maxwell’s choreography, the result is an enjoyable musical indeed – a lovely tribute to a musical legend.
Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical is at the Lyric Theatre from 1st October 2021 until 3rd April 2022. For further information visit the theatre’s website here.