UB40 Promises Birmingham Musical, March 2006Date: 5 July 2005
Just three days after appearing as part of the Live8 line-up in London’s Hyde Park, British reggae band UB40 (pictured) today announced plans for a new stage musical based on its 25 years’ worth of singles including “Red, Red Wine”, “Baggariddim”, “I Got You Babe”, “Rat in the Kitchen” and “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You”.
Promises and Lies, which takes its title from the group’s 1993 Double Platinum Album, will have its world premiere next March in Birmingham, UB40’s home city. It will have a limited season from 20 March to 15 April 2006 at Birmingham Rep, ahead of an anticipated West End transfer. Tickets for the premiere go on sale today (5 July 2005).
Similar to recent compilation musicals such as Mamma Mia!, We Will Rock You, Our House and Tonight's the Night (based on the music of Abba, Queen, Madness and Rod Stewart respectively) which have all had West End runs, rather than recounting a biography of the band, in Promises and Lies, UB40’s hits will be fashioned around a fictional story.
In this case, young local writer Jess Walters (who has previously penned two plays for the Rep, Terracotta and ‘Low Dat) has been appointed to write the book, which the band members want to be representative of the liberal social and political stance espoused in many of their songs such as “Food for Thought” (one of their first hits, about world poverty, which was performed at Live8 at the weekend) and “One in Ten” (about unemployment rates).
In a statement issued today, the band explained: “We were approached by a number of producers to create a UB40 musical for the West End, but we wanted to do more than simply string together our hits into a throw-away plot – it had to have a story that reflected our view of the world. The Rep have a great reputation for new work of real quality and they were really committed to work with us to bring our vision to the stage. We’re really looking forward to working with Jess Walters who’s a terrifically talented young writer.”
Promises and Lies will be developed over the coming months through extensive research and work with young people in Birmingham. According to promotional material, the musical will look at “the contrasts that exist in society between those in control and the ordinary people whose destinies lie in their hands. It will tell the uplifting story of individuals battling against the odds to survive on the edge of a deceptively glossy modern city.”
Though the song list has not yet been finalised, the musical will encompass many of UB40’s greatest hits since its first album was released in 1980. The band will also be composing several new tracks especially for the show.
Next year’s premiere of Promises and Lies will form part of Birmingham’s Urban Fusion event, an “explosion of creativity” and events throughout 2005/6, bringing together more than 60 of the city’s arts and cultural organisations. Funded by the Arts Council and the Millennium Commission, the programme covers six key themes around music, poetry and literature, city regeneration, cultural diversity, visual arts and the celebration of talent.
Birmingham Rep artistic director Jonathan Church, who will direct Promises and Lies, commented: “We’re excited to be collaborating with the band and thrilled that they have decided to create a new musical in the city where their music was forged. The band’s material provides such strong inspiration and they have been very clear that they want the musical to tackle real contemporary issues.”
- by Terri Paddock