Mitchell Brunings Leads World Premiere Bob Marley Musical, Beginning Tonight at Center Stage
The world premiere production of MARLEY, the first original musical based on both the life and music of Bob Marley, began rehearsals March 24 at Center Stage, the State Theater of Maryland. MARLEY begins tonight, May 8, and runs now through June 14.
International singing sensation Mitchell Brunings has been cast to play Bob Marley.
"When I first saw the YouTube clip of Mitchell singing 'Redemption Song' on 'The Voice,' I was mesmerized. I jumped on a plane and dashed to Holland to see him immediately. Having auditioned actors around the world for this role, I knew right away that he was a natural," Kwei-Armah says. "His soulful, gorgeous voice and deep respect for Bob's music and life make him the perfect fit for this production. For the last year, we've been assembling the cast and crew for this show, and I couldn't be more thrilled with our team."
"Bob Marley is a huge inspiration in my life and it's an overwhelming honor to be playing the legend in a new musical," Brunings says. "I am so excited to be working with Kwame and an amazing cast and group of musicians bringing the story of this pivotal moment in Marley's life to the stage."
This will be the first-ever stage production to feature both the music and life story of Bob Marley. The musical entwines many of Marley's beloved songs with the story of a critical moment in his life in a production that honors the life of this visionary musician and activist. A cast of more than two dozen actors play Marley's family, friends, fellow artists and political leaders, bringing to the theatrical stage the fascinating and little-known story of the moment that Marley became an icon.
After surviving an assassination attempt in 1976, Marley left Jamaica for London, where he spent 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 most important cultural figures. Set in the soundscape of an era, this new musical weaves together the life and music of a man who, to heal himself, first healed his homeland.
Brunings gained worldwide attention in 2013 when his soulful rendition of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" during his audition on Holland's version of popular singing reality show "The Voice" went viral. His performance has more than 35 million views on YouTube. Brunings has gone on to tour worldwide, often covering his idol's songs.
Through an agreement with Blue Mountain Music and Tuff Gong Pictures, Marley will feature music composed by Bob Marley-including, among others, songs from Exodus, Kaya, and Rastaman Vibration, which were written during the period in which the production is set.
"We are very proud that our father's legacy is going to be brought to the stage and that Mitchell's unique and soulful voice will be a part of this great journey," Cedella Marley says.
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 Elmina's Kitchen, 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.
The cast features: Kena Anae* as Carly Barrett, Mitchell Brunings* as Bob Marley, Luke Forbes* as Tek Life, John Patrick Hayden* as Chris Blackwell, Khetanya Jati Henderson* as Diane Jobson, David Heron* as Tony Welsh, Jonathan Hooks* as Family Man, Crystal Joy* as Judy Mowatt, Mykal Kilgore* as Stevie Wonder, Michael Luwoye* as Peter Tosh, John-Andrew Morrison* as Claudie Massop, Ano Okera* as Don Letts, Howard W. Overshown* as Michael Manley, Shayne Powell* as Malakai, Michael Rogers* as Rasta Elder, Saycon Sengbloh* as Rita Marley, Jaime Lincoln Smith* as Neville Garrick, Damian Thompson* as Bunny Wailer, Michaela Waters* as Cindy Breakspeare, Susan Kelechi Watson* as Marcia Griffiths, and Don Guillory* as Don Taylor.
In the ensemble are Christopher Dews, Tracey Farrar, Gary Kayi Fletcher, Victoria Harper, Bill Hurlbut, Kyle A. Jackson, Jeff Kirkman III, Mawk, Allison McLean, Marili Mejias, and Olu Butterfly Woods.
On the production team are: Kenny Seymour, Music Supervisor, Arranger/Orchestrator; Jason Michael Webb
Music Director, Additional Arrangments/ Orchestrations; Germaul Barnes, Choreographer; Neil Patel, Scenic Designer; ESOSA, Costume Designer; Michelle Habeck, Lighting Designer; Shane Rettig, Sound Designer; Alex Koch, Projection Designer; J. Jared Janas, Wigs/Hair/Makeup Designer; Gavin Witt and Catherine María Rodríguez, Production Dramaturgs; Oskar Eustis, Dramaturg; Geoffrey Kent, Fight Director; Samantha Godfrey, Acting Coach to Mr. Brunings; Leigh Wilson Smiley, Vocal Coach; Ano Okera, Dialect Coach; Paloma McGregor, Associate Director; Khetanya Jati Henderson, Dance and Fight Captain; Pat McCorkle, Casting Director; Suzette Newman and Chris Blackwell for Stageplay Ltd., Producers; Jessica R. Jenen, General Manager; Lloyd Davis, Jr.*, Stage Manager; Gwendolyn M. Gilliam*, Assistant Stage Manager; and Kayla Whisman and Marian Jackson, Stage Management Interns.
Bob Marley is one of the most important and influential artists of the 20th Century. In the digital era, Marley has the second-highest social media following of any posthumous celebrity, with the official Bob Marley Facebook page now surpassing 69 million fans, ranking it among the Top 20 of all Facebook pages and Top 10 among celebrity pages. His music catalog has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide since 1992 and his accolades continue, including an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1994), a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award (2001), multiple entries in the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame (2001). Bob Marley was the first Jamaican artist to gain worldwide fame. A musical, political and even spiritual icon, a figure of almost mystical proportions, no artist has so dominated his genre in the history of modern music as Marley has reggae. For more information on Bob Marley, visit: www.bobmarley.com.