'three Little Birds': Bringing Bob Marley To The Theatrical Stage (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Transcripts

'Three Little Birds': Bringing Bob Marley To The Theatrical Stage

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:08
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I’m Rebecca Sheir and this week we're celebrating the coming season with a show we're calling Spring Fling. In just a bit we'll feel the burn as we swing by Anacostia for some spring training. And now that we've sprung forward for daylight savings time we'll meet the Washingtonian whom you could refer to as Father Time. But before we get to all that…

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:31
…we're going to head to Glen Echo, Md., a.k.a. Jamaica.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:47
This song you're hearing may sound awfully familiar. As might this one…

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:59
And this one…

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:01:12
These three tunes by legendary reggae artist Bob Marley are among many you'll hear in Three Little Birds, the world premier musical opening this weekend at Adventure Theatre Musical Theatre Center. The show is written and choreographed by the theater's artistic director, Michael Bobbitt.

MR. MICHAEL BOBBITT

00:01:26
A friend of the theater knew Cedella Marley's manager.

SHEIR

00:01:30
Cedella Marley is Bob Marley's daughter.

BOBBITT

00:01:32
And suggested that we reach out to her because Cedella has written a children's book called, "Three Little Birds." And after brainstorming a little bit, I thought wouldn't it be great if I could infuse the musical with Bob Marley's music.

SHEIR

00:01:46
The book tells the story of Ziggy, a shy boy who’s more than happy to just stay home and watch TV, until his trickster friend, Nansi, convinces him to embark on a daring adventure across the island. Before adapting the book for the stage, Michael Bobbitt had to secure the rights for Bob Marley’s musical repertoire. And actually, that task, he says, wasn’t too challenging, but two things were. One…

BOBBITT

00:02:07
I had to sort of comb through the catalogue and figure out what songs were appropriate for children’s theater.

SHEIR

00:02:13
And two…

BOBBITT

00:02:14
I had to create a story and figure out how the songs play in the story.

SHEIR

00:02:17
In the end, though, Bobbitt says both undertakings came surprisingly easy, especially the second.

BOBBITT

00:02:22
We were staging the finale and I’m like, it’s almost like he wrote this song for this play, but it wasn’t. It was written just to be a song.

SHEIR

00:02:31
Can you tell us what that song is?

BOBBITT

00:02:32
It is called "Smile Jamaica." And it just starts with celebrating Jamaica and what Jamaica is, which is basically the essence of the play.

SHEIR

00:02:46
So what is it like directing a piece that is so, like, entrenched in Jamaican culture. Not only is the set going to reflect that, but the costumes, the dialect.

MR. NICK OLCOTT

00:02:54
Yeah, will thank goodness we had a wonderful, wonderful dialect coach helping us on this.

SHEIR

00:02:59
Nick Olcott is the show's director.

OLCOTT

00:03:00
So he really brought the flavor of the islands to it. And the set designer and the costume designer had to do a lot of research into the colors and the looks of Jamaica.

SHEIR

00:03:12
Among the most stunning costumes in the show, are those of the title characters.

SHEIR

00:03:16
So where do the three little birds come in?

OLCOTT

00:03:18
Well, that's from a Bob Marley song, "Three Little Birds," who come to deliver the message that everything's going to be all right. So don’t you worry about a thing because every little thing is going to be all right.

SHEIR

00:03:43
Olcott confesses that when Michael Bobbitt first approached him about directing the play…

OLCOTT

00:03:47
I thought, a children’s musical using Bob Marley music? Are you out of your mind?

SHEIR

00:03:53
But, like Bobbitt, Olcott soon found the combination was a match made in musical-theater heaven, children’s musical theater heaven, to be exact.

OLCOTT

00:04:01
And I talked to friends of mine who have young kids and they said it makes perfect sense. Kids love reggae music. The beat is just infectious. So everyone who likes reggae music is going to want to see this show because they’re beautiful arrangements, you know, in six-part harmony.

SHEIR

00:04:21
Lewis Feemster is among the actors who get to belt out this six-part harmony. And he says sure, Bob Marley’s songs are bound to get everyone in the audience bopping, but not just because they’re catchy. They also have these timeless messages of hope, liberation and love.

MR. LEWIS FEEMSTER

00:04:35
I mean, if you look around D.C. now, people have changed some of the One Way signs to One Love. So, like, there’s still that kind of like spirit that Bob Marley is able to just kind of bring out in people.

SHEIR

00:04:44
Adventure Theatre artistic director Michael Bobbitt says that spirit is a prime reason he decided to make Three Little Birds the third show in the theater’s African-American Adventure series, highlighting African American culture.

BOBBITT

00:04:55
I really started looking through the canon of works that exist in the children’s theater genre for books that celebrate the culture, where race is not a plot point. And so this idea of Three Little Birds came up and even though Jamaica is not an American province, certainly Bob Marley and reggae have influenced a lot of African American culture.

SHEIR

00:05:17
In fact, they’ve influenced many cultures and Michael Bobbitt hopes this brand new musical will influence Washingtonians to head to Glen Echo and know that, at least while they’re sitting in that darkened theater, every little thing is, truly, gonna be all right.

SHEIR

00:05:51
Three Little Birds opens this weekend at Adventure Theatre Musical Theatre Center. You can see photos of the characters and learn more about the play, as well as Cedella Marley's book, on our website, metroconnection.org.
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