Last week, Amy caught up with Michael Duke on the stage of the Lyric Theatre in London’s West End. Michael is currently starring as Bob Marley in Get Up Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical.
Why did you become an actor?
I was always going to be a performer, I’ve always loved performance. I grew up being mesmerised by stage performers, artists and things like that and I felt connected to that journey.
Has it always been theatre for you?
No, so I’ve always danced and sang and things like that, but I imagined that I was going to be a performing artist, like a singer or something like that. Then theatre happened, but I went to a performing arts school, and then went down that lane.
It is fair to say that Get Up Stand Up is unique to anything on the West End right now, why do you think it’s an important story to tell and why now?
I think it is important, especially in the West End, as it represents so much of what has been missing for a lot of people. Being able to see something like this which celebrates the history and culture of Black and Caribbean people, to have that somewhere like the West End theatre industry is important to a lot of people.
Bob Marley’s music is iconic, what’s your favourite song in the show?
Probably Concrete Jungle and Running Away – two songs that most people have probably never heard of, but I love those songs.
You’ve been in the show from when it opened, last year – who did you play originally?
I was alternate, so I always played Bob Marley, but I was alternate, so I just did 2 shows a week, and then I took over the role in March.
How was the transition from two shows to all of them?
It’s great! I thought it would be, well it has been challenging, but I feel like I got comfortable quickly
Is there an added pressure of playing a real person vs a character?
Yeah I think so, because you can’t make up everything. You have to honour the authenticity of who they were and how they were and that sort of thing. By all means I don’t impersonate or anything like that, but I think you have to honour the reality of someone.
What do you think are the key messages and themes in the show?
I think its a message of strength in who you are, having that pride in who you are. It’s about togetherness and positivity.
What do you hope audience members leave thinking and feeling?
Well I want them to leave feeling joyful and uplifted. I think that you can take from it what you will, whatever you want, but I feel that those emotions should come through. If you go away feeling that, then we’ve done our jobs well. It does have depth, it does have a political aspect, but for the overall message, if you leave feeling joyful and full of love then it has done its job.
How was West End Live?
It was fun, it was over so quickly. It has a really quick turn around, you go and you do your thing and then you leave. But it was fun, I’ve done West End Live a few times in different shows, and it’s always good, as the audience – those are the kind of people you want to perform in front of, people that love theatre and love the experience of it.
Why should people come and see Get Up Stand Up?
I think people should come and see the show, because it’s different to anything else you’re going to see. I think it’s surprising, it’s not going to be what you expect it to be, it is by no means your typical jukebox musical, it has a lot of heart, a lot of depth, but also a lot of joy.
Some people think of jukebox musicals as a lesser art form, what do you think of that?
I don’t know it depends what people’s taste is. But I do think that they are more interesting when they have great stories intertwined within them.
ABOUT THE SHOW
Get Up Stand Up! is currently on at the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue – the heart of Theatreland. The show performs 8 shows a week, Tuesday – Sunday, with Matinees on Saturdays and Sundays.
You can find out more about the show and book tickets here.