The Olivier award-winning musical is celebrating its first year in the West End with a new cast and the release of an original cast album. Opening on 20 October 2021, the production was nominated for four Olivier Awards (including Best New Musical), and won the award for best original score.

On stage, the new cast is fantastic, with particular mention to the incredible singing chops of Cleopatra Rey (Rita Marley). Long before the finale, we all got up and stood up, dancing and cheering for the legendary music. The ending is particularly powerful, shoehorning in a quick slideshow of photos capturing ongoing protests about Black Lives Matter, Grenfell, and others.

With a book by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot), almost all the dialogue is delivered in a strong Jamaican dialect, which fully immerses us in the Caribbean culture that Marley came from. One or two lines will go over the heads of those not familiar with the dialect, but this directorial decision (Clint Dyer) works perfectly with Hall’s book, highlighting how Marley was perpetually in conflict over whether or not to appeal to his so-called “white” audience, particularly in England, where he became a star.

Bob Marley died in 1981, aged only 36, but the story covers the entirety of Bob Marley’s short life: from uprooting as a young boy from Nine Mile to Trenchtown, to being shot, his political involvement, and his eventual death from untreated melanoma. David Albury’s takeover of the title role is imbued with energy, right up to the finish line.

20 or 30 minutes could easily be shaved off the long runtime by some deft editing of the repetitive songs, or even ostracising some of the lesser-known songs. A UK tour hasn’t been announced yet, but the packs-flat-plays-big set (Chloe Lamford) and lightweight 8-piece band suggests the entire production was made with touring in mind. Certainly, by the audience’s electric response, we can expect Bob Marley’s legacy to continue.

Playing at the Lyric Theatre in London’s West End until 8 January 2023.

The Prickle - About transp