by Ed Malin · February 10, 2014
Playwrights on New Plays #40 Ed Malin visits New Victory Theater and shares his impressions of Bob Marley's Three Little Birds
It's Jamaica. There is a big, beautiful sun in the middle of the colorful stage. A cast of characters, some of them birds, sing many immortal reggae hits by Bob Marley. The late great performer's daughter Cedella Marley's book for children is the basis of this family-friendly musical, which has come to New York around the time of what would have been Bob Marley's 69th birthday.
Ziggy (Jobari Parker-Namdar) is eleven years old and concerned about the bad news he sees and hears on television. His mother Cedella (Ayanna Hardy), Nansi from nearby (Brittany N. Williams), and their fine feathered friends (Tara Lynn Yates-Reeves and David Little) wisely sing that every little thing gonna be all right. Besides, Ziggy's long dreadlocks are protection against any duppy (i.e. hateful spirit) that might want to attack him. There is indeed a Duppy (S. Lewis Feemster) resembling a crow and covered in various different locks of hair taken from Jamaicans over the last several centuries, who would love to trick Ziggy. Nansi, though, is a real trickster, and she has her own pet spider that she carries around in her purse. Significant verses from songs like "Jamming", "One Love", "Natural Mystic", "So Much Trouble In The World", "Lively Up Yourself", "Is This Love", "Roots Rock Reggae", and "Duppy Conqueror" move the story to an unexpected ending which is very happy indeed (the happy part I expected). My five year-old daughter and I had a great time.
Bob Marley's music kept the audience of children and their loved ones entertained. Jos B. Musumeci's bright set is a great place for the singing and dancing to take place. Michael J. Bobbitt, Producing Artistic Director of the DC-Area Adventure Theatre MTC, is also listed as the choreographer. Kendra Rai's costumes are a rainbow of island colors and plumage. The musical arrangements by John L. Cornelius II and the lively orchestra under the direction of Darius Smith blend many of Mr. Marley's renowned songs in a way that keeps the action going and keeps the children in the audience engaged. The actors lend much energy to a story which has proud cultural overtones. Nansi / Anansi is a wise spider from West African lore, and will probably fight any duppy that comes along. Universal positive attitudes revail no matter what, and Cedella Marley, who has written several children's books, reminds us how we can all get together and feel all right.