Canadian producer David Mirvish presents the production by UK Arts and Theatre Royal Stratford East (known for its presentational playing style influenced by the work of Bertolt Brecht) through Aug. 23 at the Canon Theatre in Toronto. This is the launch of the international tour of the London-born musical. Rolan Bell stars as the wannabe star. Opening night is July 23.
The Harder They Come features Delroy Atkinson, Cavin Cornwall, Jacqui Dubois, Derek Elroy, Victor Romero Evans, Joanna Francis, Lain Gray, Zalika King, Joy Mack, Matthew Newtion, Kirk Patterson, Marcus Powell, Susan Lawson Reynolds, Simone Richards and Chris Tummings.
The reggae score includes many of songwriter Jimmy Cliff's international hits. Expect Cliff's "You Can Get It If You Really Want," "Many Rivers to Cross," "The Harder They Come," "Sitting in Limbo," "Higher and Higher," songs by The Maytals ("Pressure Drop," "Sweet and Dandy"), The Melodians ("Rivers of Babylon") and other pioneer Jamaican music artists.
The new musical by Perry Henzell is staged in the spare, Brechtian style for which the Theatre Royal Stratford company has become internationally famed. The performers, almost all of Jamaican descent, "tell this cautionary tale with a passion that energizes the audience as only few shows have ever done," according to the producers.
The production played London's West End after several earlier engagements, including the Barbican Bite Festival. Toronto is the first stop on an international tour. The Harder They Come has a book by Perry Henzell, direction by Kerry Michael and Dawn Reid, original costume design by Sally Henzell, choreography by Jackie Guy, lighting design by Jo Joelson and sound design by Stefan Lumsden.
Here's how the producers bill the show: "Based on the iconic 1972 film by Perry Henzell that launched Jimmy Cliff and reggae music onto the world stage, this exhilarating musical tells the story of Ivanhoe Martin (played by Rolan Bell), a country boy who makes for the bright lights of Kingston, Jamaica. With a head full of songs, he dreams of becoming a reggae star. When the harsh reality of the music scene drives him into a fast and furious life as an outlaw, he would rather die than kill his dream."
The musical's performance schedule is Tuesday to Saturday at 8 PM; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets are $25 to $95. At each performance, there will be 300 seats available in the mezzanine at $25 (weekday performances) and $30 (weekend performances).
For tickets and more information, visit www.mirvish.com or call TicketKing at (416) 872-1212 or (800) 461-3333.