‘Marley’ musical in the works for 2015 premiere

August 20, 2014

Center Stage, the State Theater of Maryland, announced today that it will produce the world premiere of Marley, the first original musical based on both the life and music of cultural icon Bob Marley. With a book and direction by Center Stage artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah, Marley will run from May 6 to June 14, 2015 to close Center Stage’s 2014/15 season.

Marley explores a pivotal period in the singer’s life. In 1976, Bob Marley finds himself the target of an assassination attempt. Shaken by this act of violence in the country he loves, Marley leaves for London where he spends nearly two years in self-imposed exile. Chronicling the events surrounding this earth-shaking moment, Marley tells the story of a man transformed into one of the 20th Century’s greatest musical icons.

The musical will of course feature music composed by Bob Marley, including songs – among others – from Exodus, Kaya, and Rastaman Vibration, which were written during the period in which the production is set.

“I came to truly appreciate Bob Marley during my own period of transformation as an artist,” Kwei-Armah says. “Writing this piece is my way of paying tribute to all that I’ve learned from Marley over the years, and it is very humbling to have the opportunity to bring his story to the stage.”

“We are thrilled to be working both with Kwame and with Center Stage to bring part of our father’s story to life in a way that has never been done before,” Cedella Marley says. “When it comes to our father’s work and legacy, we have always been mindful in selecting the artists with whom we choose to collaborate. We couldn’t be more excited about the team that is assembled for this project.”

Kwei-Armah, a playwright, director, and international arts advocate, came into prominence in his native England as an actor and playwright. He is the author of plays such as A Bitter Herb, Seize the Day, Let There Be Love, and Beneatha’s Place, the latter of which was written as a response to Clybourne Park for Center Stage’s The Raisin Cycle, which was the subject of a nationally broadcast PBS documentary, “A Raisin in the Sun Revisited: The Raisin Cycle at Center Stage.” Kwei-Armah serves as Chancellor of the University of the Arts London and was named an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2012.

Marley will be a creative collaboration between Baltimore’s Center Stage and New York City’s Public Theater, with Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater, serving as dramaturg for the production. Kwei-Armah directed two shows at the Public in 2013—the Mobile Shakespeare Lab production of Much Ado About Nothing and the Public Lab production of Dominique Morriseau’s Detroit ’67.

“For this piece, I wanted to collaborate with the very best minds,” Kwei-Armah says. “Having Oskar on board will give me the best chance a writer can have at fulfilling the potential of this piece.”

“Bob Marley was one of the great artists of the 20th Century, and a powerful and inspiring social leader,” Eustis says. “I am thrilled to be working again with an artist as talented as Kwame Kwei-Armah to bring his story to a new generation. Kwame has the intelligence, the talent, and the leadership to match Marley’s.”

“With each season Kwame has put together, he’s taken our audience on an extraordinary journey,” Center Stage Managing Director Stephen Richard says. “It’s only fitting that for the end of a season about discovery, Kwame has crafted a wonderful opportunity to explore the legacy and impact of such an incredible artist. This season is the perfect time for this large-scale musical to come to fruition, and we at Center Stage can’t wait to share it with the world.”

The full cast and creative team for Marley will be announced at a later date.

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