Friday, August 12, 2005

Broadway Play on Life of Bob Marley Being Planned

Basil Walters, Observer staff reporter
Friday, August 12, 2005


MARLEY. a year of activities being held to mark the 60th anniversary of his birth.

Just over 30 years after Bob Marley recorded the single Reggae On Broadway for CBS Records, his family is planning to mount a play on the Jamaican reggae superstar on Broadway, the world famous American threatre district known for top quality productions.

".A Broadway play on Bob Marley is supposed to be the next big project I'll be working on with the (Marley) family," Neville Garrick, Marley's former artistic director, told Splash in an exclusive interview Saturday night after he received the Independence Award from Prime Minister P J Patterson at Jamaica House.

The play, he said, would feature Marley's early years in music and is one of a number of projects being undertaken by the Marley family for the remainder of this year's observance of the 60th anniversary of the musical legend's birth.

Mounting a play on Broadway could be a huge cultural and economic fillip for the Marley Foundation, particularly if the work becomes popular among audiences.

GARRICK. we might call the play Trench Town Rock

Successful Broadway plays can reap millions of dollars for producers, not only in ticket sales but in merchandising, an area into which the Marley Foundation has already ventured.

Disney's The Lion King, for instance, one of the most popular productions that has been playing Broadway for many years now, grossed, for the weekend ending August 7 this year, US$1,213,397.

According to data from Broadway's official website, the production's weekend earning potential is US$1,264,960. The average price paid per ticket is US$83.33, while top ticket prices sit at US$100.

Attendance for The Lion King's eight weekend performances in the New Amsterdam theatre totalled 14,562. The threatre seats 1,801, but standing spaces are also sold.

"Since 1993, we've been looking at this Bob Marley movie which never came to fruition," Garrick said. "But we feel a play, which. we might call Trench Town Rock. It will be about the era of the coming of age of Bob Marley.

"So it would really enlighten people about where he came from and how he grew to become a world-beater in the field of music."

In September 1998, several persons attended auditions at the Countryside Club in Kingston for parts in the planned Bob Marley movie.

But by November of that year, giant filmmakers Warner Brothers backed out of the much anticipated movie because of a disagreement with producer Ron Shelton over the size of the budget.

Warner Brothers, apparently stung by two major flops at the time, refused to approve the US$30-million budget prepared by Shelton, whose original figure was US$60 million.

At the time, Roger Steffens, a noted Marley and reggae archivist, who was the consultant/script adviser for the movie, said: "It's on indefinite hold. That's the formal term they (Warner Brothers) used."

On Saturday night, Garrick, who is also an artist and who now lives in Los Angeles, California, gave some details of other projects planned by the late singer's family.

"I'm coming back towards the end of the month, because Bob Marley's mother is creating in Ocho Rios a cafe called Mama Marley, inclusive of a gallery featuring my work, with a sports lounge and a gift shop," said Garrick, who is also a consultant to the Marley Foundation headed by the superstar's widow, Rita.

"I'm also going to Nine Miles to upgrade (it) to create a kind of gallery area where people can see images of Bob. I don't know if you know that I was the only person who took pictures of Bob in Nine Miles with the people, like the farmers, so it will kind of show Bob's attachment to Nine Miles."

Marley, who died on May 11, 1981, was laid to rest in a mausoleum at Nine Miles in St Ann, the district where he was born in February 1945.

His body can be viewed at the mausoleum, which is a tourist attraction.

Garrick was a consultant for the Africa Unite concert staged last February in Addis Ababa, Ehtiopia. It was one of the events in the 60th anniversary celebrations.

"After being with Bob for about seven years on the road I've never been in a crowd of 300,000 people," Garrick said.
"While we were preparing for the concert, setting up the stage and the sound, days before the event about 6,000 to 10,000 people would come every night just to watch the work in progress. So when we have 300,000 on the day of the concert it was quite remarkable," he said adding that the event was incident free.

"In Ethiopia there are only statutes for past emperors," he said. "While I was there, they dedicated a square called Bob Marley Square where they intend to build a statue of Bob Marley."

At the Unity Concert, the Ethiopian government made Rita Marley an honorary citizen in recognition of the Marley family's role in reggae music and its subsequent impact on Ethiopia.

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