Based on the 1972 film that starred Jimmy Cliff and introduced reggae to a worldwide audience, The Harder They Come tells the story of young singer Ivan Martin who heads to Kingston in Jamaica with dreams of becoming a reggae star, but the harsh reality of the music scene drives him to a fast and furious life as an outlaw.
The stage version – written by Perry Henzell, the co-writer, director and producer of the original film, who died in 2006 – premiered in April 2006 at Theatre Royal Stratford, where it had a return season last year. This year it was revived in March for a month-long engagement at the Barbican Theatre and also visited the Birmingham Hippodrome.
The Harder They Come features songs from the original film soundtrack, including “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, “Higher and Higher”, “Many Rivers to Cross” and “Rivers of Babylon”, accompanied by a live reggae band. Rolan Bell, who has appeared in all previous stagings of the musical, will reprise his starring performance as Ivan in the West End.
Bell is joined in the West End company by Jacqui Dubois, Derek Elroy, Victor Romero Evans, Joanna Francis, Matthew J Henry, Marlon King, Susan Lawson-Reynolds, Joy Mack, Marcus Powell, Joe Speare and Chris Tummings. The production is directed by Stratford East artistic director Kerry Michael and Dawn Reid, and designed by Ultz with choreography by Jacki Guy.
Previous Theatre Royal Stratford East musicals that have found success in the West End include Five Guys Named Moe and, more recently, The Big Life. The Playhouse Theatre has been dark since the premature closure of Sean Matthias’ revival of Jean Anouilh's 1947 comedy Ring Round the Moon on 29 March (See News, 11 Mar 2008).
- by Terri Paddock