And I hope you like jammin’, too!
The First Stage shows are always crazy fun and feature colorful sets and costuming and enthusiastic talented performers. And Three Little Birds is no different and this is maybe my favorite of the season…but that may be a personal bias…since I love Bob Marley’s music.
The focus of the story by Cedella Marley is a young Jamaican lad named Ziggy. And based on his limited life experience, Ziggy is nervous about the dangers he perceives to exist in the big real world outside his home…so he prefers to remain in his home and focus on the weather (one of his fears is hurricanes) and news on his TV. But his mother and friend, Nansi, eventually coax him out into Jamaica!
And unsurprisingly, Ziggy’s best friend is a bird…a very active and happy bird…Dr. Bird, incredibly brought to life on the stage by Ogunde Tremayne. What a treat to watch Dr. Bird aid Ziggy in breaking out of his fears and enter the world. And Tremayne really brings the character to life through his acting and singing and very fluid dancing. I found myself focusing on Dr. Bird rather than Ziggy whenever Tremayne came on stage.
But despite the reassurances of Ziggy’s mother, Nansi, and Dr. Bird, there is one danger in Jamaica. A Duppy (a spirit from Jamaican folklore) who preys on young people to steal their hair to add to their own wig…believing that they needed new hair to maintain their strength and vigor. An activity that Duppy has been doing for centuries…and as everyone in the play states any number of times…Ziggy has beautiful perfect hair. And Duppy is stalking him but most frequently is frightened away by all of the activity that accompanies Ziggy and his friends. And Duppy is played by James Carrington, who gets just precisely right, the sly nature of Duppy and the humor written into the script around the Duppy and has just the right of sense of threat when he finally catches Ziggy lost and unaware. Another outstanding performance.
But Ziggy and Nansi defeat the Duppy through a clue from Ziggy’s mother and Ziggy’s twist on a trick that Nansi played on him earlier. It is a proper and rewarding comeuppance for Duppy and provides a liberation for Ziggy from his earlier dilemma and malaise.
And of course the story is supported and reinforced throughout by the delightful music of Bob Marley…as the cast sings and dances between the various story vignettes. One of the off stage heroes here is choreographer Sonya Thompson whose dance pieces bring the characters to the fore and move the story along…the choreography just adds to the joy in the music.
And a shout out to Costume Designer Kenann Quander who gave us the feel of Jamaica and colors and textures to please the eye…particularly for the three birds from the title and Duppy! And Director Samantha D. Montgomery utilized the thrust stage of the Todd Wehr Theater to maximum effect, moving the actors and set to the best advantage for her story and the engagement of the audience.
As always, First Stage features two casts to provide ample opportunities for their young acting corps. For Three Little Birds, the Jamaican Owls cast includes Reece Davis as Ziggy, Amirah Muhammad as Nansi, and Maya O’Day-Biddle as Tacoomah and the Jamaican Becard cast includes Julius Newman as Ziggy, Amira Harris as Nansi, and Zoe Chambers as Tacoomah. If you want to see who is on stage at any particular performance check the links below.
Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds continues at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater through May 21, 2023. Details and ticket info here: This show is recommended for families with children 3 and older…and has a run time about of 70 minutes that includes a short intermission.
Extra credit readings: