Bob Marley Gets Bio-Musical Treatment in Baltimore

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Bob Marley

Baltimore's theater scene will feel some positive vibrations next year when Baltimore Center Stage premieres a Bob Marley musical.

Focused on the reggae legend's life between 1975 and the tail-end of 1977, the story of "Marley" will include the assassination attempt and a self-imposed isolation in England when he recorded "Exodus" and "Kaya."

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"Biopics and musicals that cover people's lives are invariably difficult," "Marley" playwright and Center Stage artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah tells Billboard. "The attempt is to make this into the jukebox musical that doesn't smell of jukebox musical. The idea is to let it come out of the truth of the play."

The musical will include crowd-pleasers for Marley's band the Wailers such as "I Shot the Sheriff" and "No Woman, No Cry" as well as the songs that appear on "Exodus," "Kaya" and the other album he made in the show's time frame "Rastaman Vibration."

Blue Mountain Music, which holds the publishing rights to Marley's catalogue, approached Kwei-Armah to write a fictional show that incorporated the artist's songs without focusing on Marley's life. Once that show never materialized -- and with the life rights secured from Marley's heirs -- Kwei-Armah created a fact-based a bio-musical.

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Though not serving as producers, Marley family members are involved in the development and writing of the show. Kwei-Armah says he has read lines to family members to determine whether Marley would have said what he wrote.

"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," the artist's daughter Cedella Marley said in a press statement. "We couldn't be more excited about the team that is assembled for this project." 

New York's Public Theater is involved with Baltimore Center Stage as creative collaborators on "Marley" though there are no definite plans for a New York run. Kwei-Armah allows that producers, whom he declines to name,have provided enhancement money for the Baltimore production.

"Primarily we are here to produce this piece for Baltimore Center Stage," he says. "If we construct it correctly, with the reputation that someone like Bob Marley has, we expect it and would like it to have legs and move on."

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