It’s official: For much of Minnesota, this has been the grayest, gloomiest January on record. What we need is a smiling sun, bright colors and reggae music. From now through March 1, the Children’s Theatre Company has all three.
CTC is presenting the Minnesota premiere of “Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds.” Based on a story by Marley’s daughter Cedella, adapted for the stage by Michael J. Bobbitt, with arrangements and additional music and lyrics by John L. Cornelius II, it had a month-long, sold-out Off-Broadway run in 2014.
At CTC, the show is directed by Shá Cage, with music direction by Sanford Moore, who worked with the actors, and deVon Russell Gray, who leads the live orchestra and plays keyboard. The choreography is by Alanna Morris-Van Tassel, the costumes by Trevor Bowen. The cast of five, most playing multiple roles, includes Nathan Barlow, Kory LaQuess Pullam and Lynnea Monique Doublette, all veterans of the CTC stage.
The story is simple, but kids will get it: During Hurricane Martha, a young Jamaican boy named Ziggy (Ellis M. Dossavi Allpoeh) was separated from his mother, Cedella (Doublette), for a whole day. He’s been afraid ever since – afraid to leave the house, afraid to play outside, afraid to go to the beach, afraid of a spirit bird called Duppy (Pullam) whose power comes from stealing human hair. Ziggy has a head full of dreads, just the sort of young, beautiful hair Duppy craves.
The boy spends all of his time indoors, fearfully watching television, waiting for news of another hurricane heading toward Jamaica. When Cedella drives him out of the house, he sneaks back in. The more time he spends inside, the more detached he becomes from the natural world. He thinks bugs are disgusting and mongooses are dirty.
Ziggy’s best friend is Doctor Bird (Barlow), a lucky bird Ziggy bravely saved during Hurricane Martha. Doctor Bird urges him to come outside, live his life, dance and experience the spirit of Jamaica. So does his friend Nansi (KateMarie Andrews), a trickster girl with a crush on Ziggy. The boy has a father, Big Daddy, but he’s out fishing and we don’t see him.
Things start to change when Ziggy finally agrees to go with Nansi to the ocean port, where Cedella sells jerk chicken to tourists. Duppy follows, desperate for Ziggy’s hair. Soon Ziggy and Nansi are lost, then separated. Now Ziggy is really scared. But Doctor Bird has been watching him from above, and he flies down to give Ziggy a lesson on Jamaica’s history. (To be honest, things get a little slow here, and confusing.) Reuniting with Nansi, Ziggy comes face-to-face with Duppy and rediscovers his courage.
Woven through the story are Marley’s infectious songs, arranged in medleys, spreading that feel-good vibe. The songs aren’t always a match to the action, but it doesn’t really matter. “One Love” and “Jamming,” “So Much Trouble in the World,” “Lively Up Yourself,” “Is This Love?,” “Riding High,” “Running Away” and “Three Little Birds” all find their way into the score – even “I Shot the Sheriff,” but without the lyrics.
There’s enough action on the stage to keep little ones watching. Lawrence E. Moten III’s vibrant scenic design, Bowen’s vivid costumes and Wu Chen Khoo’s lighting are balm for eyes bored with gray. (A high point, no pun, is Pullam on stilts.) The Jamaican accents take getting used to, and some of the vocabulary flies by. If you go and bring kids, tell them ahead of time about the expression “A yasso nice!” It’s something Jamaicans say when they’re having a good time, and it’s used often in “Three Little Birds.”
Reggae has been called an instant dose of vitamin D. A recent study – well, not quite a study, more a survey done for a company in the UK with music venues – found that children who listen to reggae grow up to be more open-minded. And we could all use some reassurance that “every little thing gonna be all right.”
“Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds” is for ages 5 and up. It’s about an hour long, with no intermission. FMI and tickets (start at $15).
Tonight (Friday, Jan. 31) at Macalester’s Law Warschaw Gallery: Opening reception for “Rituals of Regard and Recollection.” Guided by words from bell hook’s “belonging: a culture of place,” Public Functionary’s Tricia Heuring has curated an exhibition of contemporary works on paper by 20 international artists, drawn from the collection of JoAnn Gonzalez Hickey. It’s a show about memory, how we remember or want to be remembered, how we occupy space in history. 6-9 p.m., curator remarks at 7 p.m. Free. On view through March 8.
Starts tonight at the Walker: “Bong Joon Ho: Beyond Boundaries.” When this dialogue and retrospective were announced in November, South Korean writer-director Bong Joon Ho’s latest film, “Parasite,” had recently won the Palm d’Or at Cannes. It had not yet won the Best Picture Golden Globe, a SAG, and another 170+ international awards and six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Director, Foreign Language Film and Screenplay. By Wednesday, Feb. 12, when he comes to the Walker for a conversation with Scott Foundas, the whole world will know if he made Oscar history. The dialogue sold out long ago, but tickets are still available to screenings of his films “Parasite” (tonight, Jan. 31), “Mother” (Feb. 4), “Okja” (Feb. 5) and “Snowpiercer” (Feb. 11). 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($10/$8 Walker members). There will be an in-person wait list one hour before the dialogue, but tickets aren’t guaranteed.
Opens tonight at the Gremlin Theatre: Theater Mu’s “peerless.” Real-life sisters Francesca and Isabella Dawis star as twins M and L, Asian American high school seniors who are determined to get into “the college.” Then the affirmative action spot goes to D, who’s 1/16th Native American. Jiehae Park’s play, a dark comedy inspired by Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” is the first to be directed by Theater Mu’s new artistic director, Lily Tung Crystal. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($50-5 pay-as-you-are; market value $35). Closes Feb. 16.
Sunday at Hamline’s Sundin Music Hall: The Musical Offering: “Act II: On a Winter’s Day.” If you go to a classical concert this year, chances are high you’ll hear music by Beethoven, since 2020 is his 250th birthday year. For their first concert of the new year (and the second of their current season), the Musical Offering will evoke the sounds of a rainforest with Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6 for Flute and Bassoon, follow with English composer Arthur Bliss’ “Quintet for Oboe and String Quartet” and end with Beethoven’s ninth string quartet. TMO is co-artistic directed by Norbert Nielubowski and Susan Billmeyer; most of the ensemble are Minnesota Orchestra musicians. 3 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30/$10 students).
Sunday at Macalester’s Mairs Concert Hall: Chopin Society: Joyce Yang. Winner of the Silver Medal and other top prizes at the 2005 Van Cliburn Competition, the Korean-born pianist will make her second appearance with the Chopin Society, playing music by Bach, Carl Vine, Chopin and Liszt. 3 p.m. FMI and tickets ($35/30/15).