Free spirit of Bob Marley lifts ‘Three Little Birds’ at Maryland Ensemble Theatre

A silly and light children's musical full of joy and hope.

Rise up this mornin’
Smiled with the risin’ sun
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true
Saying, (this is my message to you)

These lyrics from Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds” have a pure connection with the ideas of peace, love, and patience. Things we are running extremely short on today. Perhaps that is why Maryland Ensemble Theatre has produced Three Little Birds, a children’s musical based on a story by Cedella Marley (Marley’s daughter), with music and lyrics by Bob Marley, and adapted for the stage by Michael J. Bobbitt.

Scene from ‘Three Little Birds.’ Photo courtesy of Maryland Ensemble Theatre Fun Company.

The story follows a young boy, Ziggy (Jordan Essex). He is obsessed with watching the news and lives in constant fear of hurricanes and evil spirits. Ziggy’s mom, Cedella (Mumbi Mwaura), lovingly encourages him to go out into the world and explore the beautiful island of Jamaica that they call home. But Ziggy is too scared to leave the house.

Nansi (Ezra Lavala), a high-energy young girl who not-so-secretly has a huge crush on Ziggy, encourages him to go out and play. And adding to that chorus is Dr. Bird (Sylvern Grooms Jr.), a wise soul, who longs to introduce his best bud, Ziggy, to his family and urges him to feel the rhythm of the island.

After much persuasion, Nanzi and Ziggy venture out for a short excursion that quickly turns south. They get lost, are pursued by the infamous, hair-stealing, evil spirit Duppy (Mark Wallace), and are pummeled by a ridiculous amount of mangoes (you just have to see it to understand).

Bob Marley’s songs are woven into the story with beautiful six-part harmonies — a nod to music director Valerie Higgs. There is of course the classic “One Love.” When Ziggy laments about how dangerous the world is, the cast sings “So Much Trouble in the World.” And after Nansi plants a kiss on Ziggy, he then rightly bursts into “Is This Love.” 

Three Little Birds is silly and light, with a ton of singing and dancing to constantly engage the young audience. The set uses panels with beautiful bright colors, and the costumes are flowing and fun — think tie-dyes, feathers, and swaths of cloth (costume design by Julie Herber). 

Director and choreographer Ray Hatch makes good use of the outdoor venue at Baker Park Bandshell. And the cast fills the space with their voices and energy.

Scene from ‘Three Little Birds.’ Photo courtesy of Maryland Ensemble Theatre Fun Company.

The free and calming spirit of Bob Marley’s music never ages, and Maryland Ensemble Theatre’s production of Three Little Birds captures the vibe wonderfully. The show is full of joy, hope, and a message of choosing to live and focus on the good in people. Not letting the negativity and evil of the world paralyze you or steal your joy. A lesson I think our youth need to hear, as our world slowly emerges from our COVID bubbles.

Running Time: Approximately 60 minutes, with no intermission.

Three Little Birds, produced by Maryland Ensemble Theatre’s Fun Company, plays August 27 to September 5, 2021, at Baker Park Bandshell, 121 North Bentz Street, Frederick, MD. Tickets are available online or by calling the box office at 301-694-4744.

Cast: Jordan Essex (he/him), Ziggy; Sylvern Grooms Jr. (he/him), Dr Bird; Ezra Lavala (they/them), Nansi; Mark Wallace (he/him), Duppy; Mumbi Mwaura (she/her), Cedella; McKenzie Stewart, (she/her) Tacoomah

Crew: Julie Herber (she/her), Fun Company Artistic Director/ MET Associate Artistic Director/ Costume Designer/ Props Designer; Ray Hatch (he/him), Director/Choreographer; Valerie Higgs (she/her), Music Director; Shayden Jamison (he/him), Stage Manager; Olivia Pietanza (she/her), Assistant Stage Manager; Corey Brown (he/him), Sound Engineer; Cody James (they/them), Master Carpenter & Electrician


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