TBB Talks … Get Up Stand Up With Michael Duke

Michael Duke is Reggae Legend Bob Marley in Get Up Stand Up!

Michael Duke has been inspiring audiences with his portrayal of the reggae legend since last year, capturing the essence of the entertainer and taking audiences on the powerful journey of Marley’s life. Taking inspiration from Marley’s imaginative lyrics the musical tells his extraordinary life story from beginning to end.

Duke has been working in theatre for 20 years and has previously appeared on the West End in The Inheritance, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Thriller Live and The Lion King.

Taking inspiration from Marley’s imaginative lyrics the musical tells his extraordinary life story from beginning to end. We spoke to Michael in the run-up to the show’s 1st Birthday …

Please introduce yourself

I am an artist of Jamaican heritage, born and raised in South London.

Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now…


Bob Marley changed the world with his inspirational message, revolutionary spirit and musical vision. Not only are his big boots to fill! But you have also taken over the role from the fantastic Arinze Kene who was nominated for an Olivier award for Best Actor in a musical playing the role. How did you approach taking on the role full-time [ previously the role’s alternate ], did you jump at the chance or did you have any reservations?

No, I didn’t have any reservations. I was very excited to take on the role – it’s an honour to play such an iconic and revolutionary artist. So for me, with my background and my heritage, it just made so much sense to play the role.

As much as the general story of Bob Marley is known, did you know much about the finer details of his life previously and how have you connected to the character?

I did already know the majority of what is covered and what we explore in the piece, as well as his history. But there were a lot of smaller details which I didn’t know, in terms of who he associated with, how many children he had … A lot of little things which I didn’t know.

Michael Duke and company – Get Up Stand Up! The Musical

I am ashamed to admit it but I am yet to watch the show, as someone who has not seen it can you give us a general overview of Get Up Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical and what audiences can expect from this production?

The show celebrates the life and music of Bob Marley, and not only that but celebrates the culture and history of Jamaica in such a huge and powerful way. It’s a joyful show – it’s positive, and it’s not what you expect it to be.

Your career has included some memorable roles in some of the UK’s most iconic shows stemming back 20 years as Young Simba in The Lion King; you have also appeared in the West End run of The Inheritance, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Thriller Live and The Rat Pack LIVE! – when you reflect on your journey which of your roles have been the most validating?

Probably the first one, The Lion King, because that was my first ever role when I was eleven years old. So I guess when we’re talking about validation, that’s probably it. I just remember feeling like this is the best thing that I could ever experience in life. And it was my first job, and I was doing one of the biggest shows in the world. That was so magical to do. And I guess when you’re young and you’re just starting out, there’s not much more validation than that.

What have been the best and most challenging parts of working on Get Up Stand Up!?

My favourite part of working on Get Up, Stand Up! is the audience. I love how expressive they are and how unpredictable they can be. That can also be challenging sometimes!

We recently celebrated Jamaica’s 60th Independence on the 6th of August, with all that Bob Marly stood for did it feel more impactful singing the songs and embodying him on such a day?

I still haven’t quite processed it; it was very emotional. But it was probably the most humbling experience I’ve ever had as a performer to this day. It was special and it was an honour to play that role and do this show on that day. It was beautiful!

Gabrielle Brooks and Michael Duke – Get Up Stand Up The Bob Marley Musical

You, like many of the other cast members, are of Jamaican heritage. I watched a lovely video on the influence of Jamaican heritage recorded by some of the cast. Can you share with us the importance of this influence for you?

I think there’s so much of the show which feels natural, and comes naturally to me because of my heritage and upbringing, and I love the role and doing this show so much because sometimes I just feel like I’m just being myself on stage, and that feels … I guess that’s also quite validating.

Name your favourite Bob Marley song and how the lyrics inspire you.

That’s very difficult! I’m going to say War is my favourite Bob Marley song because it’s one of my favourite songs to perform in the show. It’s such a powerful, political song. It’s a protest. I think it really represents everything that Bob Marley is about, and – like a lot of his songs – when you take away the music and you just speak the lyrics, it says so much. And the point where it comes in the show, towards the end of Act 1, it’s such a climactic moment that it elevates the power of the song.


  • A book you have to have in your collection? The book that I’ve enjoyed the most in the last few years is called Homegoing by a Ghanaian writer called Yaa Gyasi. It’s a brilliant story which weaves the lives of two sisters, separated at birth and have two very different destinies. It’s beautiful.
  • A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? It’s weird, because I feel like this is a question I always imagine being asked but now it’s happening I can’t think of one. I’m going to say the… I Am album by Earth Wind & Fire.
  • A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? Insecure.
  • The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)? Probably The Lion King. It was just a magical spectacle of spectacularness.

What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? I haven’t been sad this week, and I haven’t been mad this week, but I’ve been glad. I’ve been glad to have seen a lot of friends and family.

Get Up Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical @Lyric Theatre runs until Sunday 8th January 2023. Book tickets here.


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