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.
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 prior to its West End transfer.
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 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 production is directed by Stratford East artistic director Kerry Michael and Dawn Reid, and designed by Ultz with choreography by Jacki Guy.
No further productions have yet been announced for the Playhouse.
- by Terri Paddock