Anyone in the Triangle area wishing to escape the lingering cold of a winter that just won’t quit need look no further than Raleigh Little Theatre’s radiant production of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. Adapted by Michael J. Bobbitt from a charming illustrated children’s book written by Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella Marley, Three Little Birds uses the reggae legend’s music, plus additional music and lyrics by John L. Cornelius, II, to create a 2014 Off-Broadway musical that tells a joyful, vibrant tale about youth, courage, and the power of the human spirit.
The story features Ziggy (played by Jireh Ijeoma), a young boy on the edge of becoming a man, who forgoes the island lifestyle in order to sit at home watching television. Though he is chided by his mother Cedella (an effervescent India Williams) and teased by his friends, Ziggy is afraid to face the world.
A hurricane blew through not too long ago, separating Ziggy from his home and his mother; and Ziggy lives in fear of further disasters crashing down on him. He also fears Duppy (played with charismatic menace by JaJuan Cofield), the ominous bird/spirit who haunts the jungle, looking to rob humans of their hair … and possibly their souls as well.
Nansi (Seanna Osborne), Ziggy’s friend and the “best trickster on the island,” uses her immature charm and no few tricks to lure Ziggy into venturing outdoors, where they promptly get lost in the jungle. It is there that Ziggy learns, with the help of his best friend Doctor Bird (the absolutely delightful Benaiah Barnes) and several other island birds, not only the history of Jamaica, but how to find himself in the process. A poignant message about experiencing life to the full and engaging in the present, instead of marinating in the fear and negativity of television media and dire newscasts, hits the mark without pontificating.
Enough cannot be said about this enchanting cast. Bob Marley’s love for his island is a cornerstone of his music, and that love is translated palpably through every cast member. As Nansi, Seanna Osborne is delightfully wicked and charming. Jireh Ijeoma plays Ziggy with aplomb, belting out clear vocals and sporting “the most beautiful hair in Jamaica.”
Joshua Johnson (Tacooma) and Chanda Branch (Montego) round out Doctor Bird’s helpful trio — the “three little birds” of the title who challenge, tease, and guide Ziggy through his journey. Jeremy Clos’ costume design is exceptional, bringing the feathered creatures to life and giving each character their own personality, as varied and luscious as a tropical garden.
For this production, Jeannine Borzello has transformed the Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre into a lush Jamaican rain forest, brimming with mango trees, sun/moon art, and every color in the rainbow. Sounds of the jungle greet audience members as they are invited in, setting the tone from the moment of arrival (sound design by John Maruca). Undulated step risers provide depth for the actors to play in, and a rope swing dangling from the ceiling is about as inviting as can be.
The live four-person band (Ronzel Bell, Derrek Croney, Bobby Sherard, and Henry Lovett) sits on the upper level at the back of the theater, presiding over the space in a way that engages without dominating. Ryann Norris’ dynamic lighting design is playful and brilliant, dancing its way through the show along with the spirited cast members.
Director Deb Royals-Mizerk has made this family-friendly show a delight for adults as well as children, modulating the danger of Duppy with an uplifting message, all set to music so familiar as to encourage an effortless sing-along with the audience by the end. As the final bows are taken, the cast gleefully encourages audience members to stay and mingle, and enjoy the island spirit. In the final throes of a blustery March, this vivid production is sure to lift spirits and remind us all that spring is just around the corner.
SECOND OPINION: March 11th Raleigh, NC Talkin’ Broadway: Raleigh/Durham review by Garrett Southerland: https://www.talkinbroadway.com/page/regional/rd/rd67.html.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents Bob Marley’s THREE LITTLE BIRDS at 7:30 p.m. March 14 and 15, 1 and 5 p.m. March 16 and 17, 7:30 p.m. March 21 and 22, and 1 and 5 p.m. March 23 and 24 in RLT‘s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $18 ($12 for children 12 and under).
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/.
RLT‘S 2018-19 SEASON: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows-and-events/memberships/.
PRESENTER: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/RaleighLittleTheatre, https://twitter.com/RLT1936, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raleigh_Little_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/raleighlittletheatre.
MAPS/DIRECTIONS: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/about/map-directions.html. PARKING: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/about/parking.html.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows.
NOTE 2: Click here and scroll down for a list of events before and after individual performances.
Three Little Birds (1977 song): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Little_Birds (Wikipedia). Cedella Marley (author of the picture book Every Little Thing, based on Three Little Birds): https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0549126/ (Internet Movie Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedella_Marley (Wikipedia).
Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds (2014 musical): https://www.rnh.com/show/1028/Bob-Marleys-Three-Little-Birds (Rodgers & Hammerstein Orginization) and http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/5820 (Internet Off-Broadway Database).
Bob Marley, nee Robert Nesta Marley (music and lyrics): http://www.bobmarley.com/ (official website), https://www.britannica.com/biography/Bob-Marley (Encyclopædia Britannica), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/44446 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0002490/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Marley (Wikipedia).
John L. Cornelius, II (additional music and lyrics): http://www.pvamu.edu/music-theatre/music/faculty-staff/john-l-cornelius-ii/ (Prairie View A&M University bio) and http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/44448 (Internet Off-Broadway Database).
Michael J. Bobbitt (playwright): https://adventuretheatre-mtc.org/aboutATMTC/bobbitt.html (Adventure Theatre MTC bio), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/44447 (Internet Off-Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_J._Bobbitt (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: https://www.flynncenter.org/assets/files/education/student-matinees/ThreeLittleBirdsFlynnStudyGuide-1516.pdf (Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, VT).
Deb Royals-Mizerk (Raleigh, NC director): http://www.abouttheartists.com/artists/507872-deb-royals (AboutTheArtists bio) and https://www.facebook.com/deb.royals (Facebook page).
Melanie Simmons of Cary, NC is a film and stage actress with a BA degree in Theatre from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA. She has studied acting with Sande Shurin Acting Studios in New York City and The Actor’s Workshop in Los Angeles, CA; and she now trains locally with Lynda Clark (stage), Daryl Ray Carlisle (film/commercial), and Rebekah Holland (voice). Simmons has performed at Raleigh Little Theatre in Raleigh, Forest Moon Theater in Wake Forest, Stageworks Theatre in Holly Springs, and many others. She is represented by Talent One Agency in Raleigh. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.