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The story of a dreamer-turned-outlaw gets a lively retelling in an acclaimed stage show featuring some of Jamaican music’s best-known songs. —By Lindsay Hope
Performers in The Harder They Come (photo by Robert Day).
The infectious rhythms and memorable melodies of the latest musical to hit Toronto come by way of a recent London stage sensation and a 1970s cult-classic film. This month, Mirvish Productions brings The Harder They Come to the Canon Theatre for its much-anticipated North American premiere.
Faithfully based on the 1972 movie of the same name—its co-writer and director, the late Perry Henzell, also penned the musical—this stage version was first performed in 2006 by the Theatre Royal Stratford East and has since garnered rave reviews over a number of sell-out runs in the U.K. The Toronto production features much of the original’s vibrant, youthful cast, not to mention a live reggae band with a groove so energetic, it rouses audience members to dance in their seats. Among the British stars are Joanna Francis as the God-fearing Elsa, and Rolan Bell, who hits all the right notes as the show’s tragic hero, Ivanhoe Martin. A poor Jamaican farm boy with stars in his eyes and a dream in his heart, Ivan heads to Kingston with ambitions to become a reggae hit-maker. Soon enough he is faced with the harsh realities of the music industry and veers sharply down the path of drugs, crime and vengeance, earning infamy for his exploits as an outlaw just as his musical star begins to rise.