Mick Jagger (pictured) is hardly a first night regular, but he seemed to revel in his “luvvie” excursion last night (9 June 2008, previews from 23 May) to the West End premiere of reggae musical The Harder They Come at the Playhouse Theatre (See News, 9 May 2008).

The Rolling Stone enjoyed pre-show rum punch offerings – served by members of the cast milling amongst the star-studded audience, which also included Rupert Everett, Bob Geldof and Gina Yashere - followed by ice cream at the interval and an energetic jig at the standing ovation curtain call.

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 (played by Rolan Bell) 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.

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Our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand at the Playhouse Theatre for 1st Night Photos of The Harder They Come, which arrives in the West End following two seasons at the Theatre Royal Stratford East (where it premiered in April 2006) and a month at the Barbican earlier this year. Rolan Bell, who has headed all previous stagings of the musical, is joined in the cast by Joanna Francis, Victor Romero Evans, Marlon King, Susan Lawson-Reynolds, Marcus Powell and Chris Tummings.

The stage version of The Harder They Come is written by Perry Henzell, the co-writer, director and producer of the original film, who died in 2006. It features reggae classics from the film soundtrack, including “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, “Higher and Higher”, “Many Rivers to Cross”, “Rivers of Babylon” and the title number, accompanied by a live reggae band. The production is directed by Stratford East artistic director Kerry Michael and Dawn Reid, and designed by Ultz with choreography by Jacki Guy.


Last night also saw the West End arrival (previews from 23 May) of Dickens Unplugged, the new musical comedy that does for Charles Dickens what The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (See News, 16 Apr 2008). So Dan Wooller also nipped across to the Comedy Theatre to catch that show’s hard-working five-strong cast in action.

The musical is written and directed by Adam Long, a founder member of the Reduced Shakespeare Company who co-wrote. Long also performs the piece along with Joseph Atteborough, Matthew Hendrickson, Simon Jermond and Gabriel Vick who together present the life and works of Charles Dickens “as never seen before: fast, furious and in five-part harmony”.

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