the take

Downpression! Where Are All the Reggae Musicals?

Rolan Bell in London’s The Harder They Come.Photo: Robert Day/Courtesy of the Barbican Theater

The Times’ Ben Brantley has just begun his monthlong sojourn to London, checking out all the awesome (and terrible) shows playing on and off the West End. Today’s post on his Times London theater blog is about a show that we want to see right now: a stage adaptation of The Harder They Come, the 1972 movie starring Jimmy Cliff (and, more important, his badass reggae tunes). In the somewhat stilted blog-speak that telegraphs a review without actually being a review, Brantley complains a bit about the audience’s staidness but marvels at Rolan Bell, the actor who plays the Cliff role: His “dead-pan insolence brings to mind the young Michael Caine.”

We would totally watch this! And it makes us wonder: Why hasn’t there been a reggae jukebox musical? New York producers have presented jukebox musicals based on surf-pop, R&B, country, bluegrass. Hell, the best jukebox musical ever is about an art form no one gives a crap about anymore, doo-wop. There’s long been a Bob Marley jukebox musical in development in London; a February interview with playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah suggests it’s still a long ways from production. In the meantime, bring on Jimmy Cliff!

Time for a Ganja Break at “The Harder They Come” [ArtsBeat/NYT]

Downpression! Where Are All the Reggae Musicals?