Review: The Harder They Come (the musical)

Last night I went to opening night of the musical The Harder They Come, brought to Canon Theatre in Toronto by Mirvish. The live music by the band, the red gold and green stage lighting, the effortless dancing, the familiar (and authentic) Jamaican tone and humour...I loved it all from beginning to end!

The musical was inspired by the real-life story of the infamous Jamaican outlaw, Ivanhoe "Rhygin" Martin (played by the excellent Rolan Bell). Rhygin's legacy of the 1940s was adapted for the motion picture of the same name in 1972, starring Jimmy Cliff.

The on-stage session with drums and keyboards kept a steady reggae vibe all evening as the songs of Jimmy Cliff were featured in beautiful arrangements and powerful reinactments: The Harder They Come, Many Rivers to Cross, You Can Get it If You Really Want, and Sitting Here in Limbo to name a few.

There is something wonderful about hearing the songs you know and love, and seeing them brought to life on the stage. It was almost a proud moment to see an audience of all races, ages and backgrounds laughing, grinning, grooving, and being drawn into the story of Jamaican Rhygin and his lover "Elsa" played by the talented Joanna Francis.

Under the direction of Dawn Reid and Kerry Michael, the cast of mainly British actors had dance moves and vocals that were clear and flawless: obvious professionals. Gospel singer Lain Gray ("Pedro"), dancer and choreographer Susan Lawson-Reynold ("Pinky"), Joy Mack ("Miss Daisy") a 70s recording artist dubbed the Queen of Lovers' Rock, and Marcus Powell ("Hilton"), a television star. All of the cast members did an excellent job, and had strong performances.

Perry Henzell has written a brilliant play, and I encourage you to check it out. If you love reggae music, if you love GOOD music, period, then you will love this show. It's funny, it's pleasant, it's captivating, very entertaining, and it left everyone with a smile and good vibes at the end of the evening.

For ticket info, visit You won't regret it!

If you do check it out, please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

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  1. Great review! I'm totally going to go see it now!


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