Adventure Theatre MTC presents the world premiere of Three Little Birds, a Reggae Children’s Musical based on the story by Cedella Marley, with music and lyrics by her father, musical legend Bob Marley. Director Nick Olcott leads this ambitious and fun production alongside Musical Director Darius Smith. This story was adapted for the stage by Michael J. Bobbitt, with additional music and lyrics by John L. Cornelius, ll.
The set, designed by Jos B Musumeci, is an explosion of bright colors! Palm trees and puffy white clouds are painted onto the background, and large sheets of corrugated metal that are creatively cut and colored frame a large circular platform. The focal point of the set is the face of a stunning sun – beautiful enough as a solid piece, but revealed to in fact be a puppet that can be manipulated to smile, frown, wink, and playfully stick a tongue out. Keeping with the bright theme, Lighting Designer Brian S. Allard uses bright shades, including a buttery sunshine and a soft flicker that mimics a television screen. Sound Designer Neil McFadden uses different bird songs and rhythmic steel drums to help create a relaxed island atmosphere.
But the hands-down best production element of this show are the costumes, designed by Kendra Rai. You name it, and it’s probably in there; flowy skirts, patterned head wraps, dreadlocks and beanies, tie-dye prints and sandals…I could go on for a while, and those are just the casual characters! The real “wow” factor are the bird costumes, with multitudes of feathers and flamboyantly cut, brightly-colored suits. Bird Heads, co-designed by Anna St. Germain and constructed by Josh Kelly, are beyond simple costumes; they’re works of art.
The story centers around a shy, cautious boy named Ziggy (Jobari Parker-Namdar) who, to the dismay of his friends and family, would watch TV with his pet Doctor Bird (David Little) than explore everything the Jamaican island has to offer. He worries about storms, mongoose, and evil spirits, and would rather stay safely inside and follow the weather reports. His mother Cedella (Ayanna Hardy) and energetic friend Nansi (Brittany N. Williams) prod him into a song and dance number, with him wearing a “kill me now” expression through the whole thing. Ziggy sings about his fears with the song “So Much Trouble in the World,” to which his mother responds, “life is full of danger, but also adventure.”
Danger indeed looms, in the form of Duppy (S. Lewis Feemster), who lurks nearby whenever Ziggy leaves the house. Duppy is a soul collector, sporting waves of hair woven from his victim’s locks, and has his heart set on Ziggy’s dreadlocks; “More hair, more power, more souls!” Nansi is a clever trickster, and manages to lure Ziggy out from behind the TV screen and into the heart of the diverse Jamaican culture. Together, they explore new feelings in the song, “Is This Love?” and learn about the history of Jamaica with the song “One Love,” lead by Doctor Bird, who tells them about his long line of bird ancestors from different time periods and cultures. This proved to be my favorite number of the show, as the costumes of his ancestors are fantastic, and the melding of history, tradition, and love into what is now Jamaica is shown in a highly entertaining way. However, as they are out and about, Duppy schemes in the shadows. Will evil catch up to them on their adventure?
Bob Marley’s music and songs are performed in a way that are lively and fun, with the universal message being one of love, joy, and celebration. The ensemble is made up of a bevy of talent, and the dialect, movements, and choreography (by Michael J Bobbit) are entirely authentic.
Brittanny N Williams pours a manic amount of energy into her character, S Lewis Feemster has the evil slouch and chuckle down to a science and Jobari Parker-Namdar’s transition from neurotic to embracive is seamles, and they are all great singers. Nick Olcott’s direction is solid and successful.
Bright, joyful, and the perfect way to introduce your child to the popular Reggae culture, Three Little Birds is an absolute must-see!
Running Time: 60 minutes, without an intermission.
Three Little Birds plays through at April 14,, 2013 at Adventure Theatre – 7300 MacArthur Boulevard , in Glen Echo Park, in Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 634-2270, or order them online.