On Saturday Owen and I went to Kingston via Wimbledon. Not too much of a struggle I hear you cry Constant Reader... 57 bus goes there from Streatham. But I mean Kingston, Jamaica.
Yes, man. This magical journey meant only one thing, Perry Henzell's musical adaptation of his film THE HARDER THEY COME was back in town!
After it's criminally short tenure at the Playhouse in 2008, most of the company have returned from dates in Canada and the USA to finish off with a UK tour which had the good sense to play London again, this time at the cavernous Wimbledon theatre. Needless to say it wasn't the same show I saw five times back in 2008 but there were enough familiar faces to make it enjoyable and of course the sheer galvanizing effect of the show itself worked again with it's marvelous reggae score played by some fierce musicians.For the tour, the role of Ivanhoe Martin - the country bwoi coming to Kingston to seek his fortune in music but ending up a ghetto hero on the run from the police - was played by Matthew J. Henry who had played "The Photographer" at both the Barbican and Playhouse. Overall I missed the charismatic Rolan Bell in the part but Henry came into his own in the second half when he showed the hard side of Ivan's character.
The role of the hapless Elsa, Ivan's put-upon lover, was now played by Alanna Leslie and again I found myself missing the appealing performance of Joanna Leslie - she managed to give you a sense of the character's inner strength otherwise Elsa comes across as a bit of a drip.
For the main supporting performances it was great to see the original players - with a twist!
Marlon King reprised his Playhouse role as Pedro who Ivan joins in the lucrative but treacherous world of ganja-trading and he was as powerful on stage as always, his rendition of MANY RIVERS TO CROSS is one of the highlights of the show.
The twist this time out was seeing the great Chris Tummings taking over from the mighty Marcus Powell as Reggie Hilton, the power behind Kingston's music business. He again proved to be a magnetic performer but damn I missed him as Ray Pierre the corrupt policeman who sees to it that Ivan is hunted down so the corruption can keep flowing into his bank account. Although Reggie has his own moments of smiling menace, I missed Chris' LETHAL menace as Ray. His second act solo of PRESSURE DROP - which he interrupts to interact with the mouthy but predominantly petrified audience members - was handled ok by Craig Stein, but Tummings made this a scene a genuine showstopper. We also had the welcome return of Victor Romero Evans as the hypocritical fire & brimstone Preacher - he was also a fine Pedro in the Barbican production - as well as the joyous Joy Mack as Miss Daisy, Ivan's sometime-loving, most-time disparaging mama. It was also great to see Derek Elroy back and stealing every scene he was in as the radio dj Numero Uno and as the cowardly Longa. Nice too to see the delightful Jacqui Dubois again as Miss Brown, the shrewd seller of stylish ghetto headwear "International style, local price".
We had a new pair of performers as the two ghetto fabulous sistas Pinkie and Precious, Janine Johnson and Nataylia Roni (who originated the role at Stratford East). I liked Roni but missed the exuberant playing of Susan Lawson-Reynolds as Pinkie who certainly had more clarity in her 2nd act exposition scenes.The show is ultimately powered by the marvellous musicians who make up the onstage band, The Hilton All Stars: Perry Melius on drums, Wayne Nunes on bass, Darren Benjamin and Adrian McKenzie on keyboards and last but not least, Peter Lee and the mighty Alan Weekes on guitars. It's a-compulsory to not leave the auditorium until they have finished their last play-out jam.
The production next visits Salford, Oxford and Cardiff. You can get to see it if you really want - and you would be mad not to... it's a Boss production sar!