Friday, 31 July 2009

MELLO GO ROUN' HIGHLIGHTS: Best of JCDC Festival 2009





MELLO GO ROUN' HIGHLIGHTS: Best of JCDC Festival 2009





MUSIC REVIEW: Fabolous - Loso's Way

HIS WAY: Fabolous goes hard on his fifth and latest CD

With Loso’s Way, seasoned hip-hopper Fabolous has created a rap record marked by witty and hard-hitting lyrics, throbbing hip-hop beats and a robust roster of A-list collaborators. The album, his fifth solo effort, represents a huge step above his last outing, From Nothin’ To Somethin’, released in June 2007. Pulling inspiration from the Al Pacino film Carlito’s Way, the Brooklyn-bred rapper wastes no time in getting at his detractors, putting his women on check while vowing to keep bringing the heat in hip hop – doing what he loves best.


Where many of his contemporaries inexplicably use their albums to declare their love for flossin’, wild women and the flashiest whips, Fabolous smartly uses Loso’s Way, a 16-track record, to announce his arrival at a new level in his expanding career. Considering his rise to stardom, it becomes obvious that he still could have delivered a strong album without the many cameo appearances. But the guests, along with such hitmakers as Tricky Stewart and The Runners, serve to enhance a stellar product.


Fellow Brooklynite Jay Z adds his brand of urban swagger to the head-nodding “When The Money Goes Remix” while Ryan Leslie brings a taste of R&B to the hook on “The Fabolous Life”. The Dream appears on the popular and materialistic “Throw It In The Bag”, which recalls T.I.’s “Whatever You Like”, while pop princess Keri Hilson brings her spice to “Everything, Everyday, Everywhere”. An even stronger collabo, though, is “Stay” (a touching song about a strained father-son relationship), which features Marsha Ambrosius, formerly of Floetry. He also has winning chemistry with urban-pop newcomer Jeremih on the take-no-prisoners anthem “It’s My Time”.


Still, Fabolous shows he can successfully carry a track all by himself. The long album intro, “The Way”, proves this. His flow and energy rides the bass-heavy beat as he shows off his wicked rhyming skills. Other standouts include “Pachanga”, a well-written and groovy track that speaks to dealing with friends and enemies; the introspective and heartfelt “I Miss My Love” (about losing someone close) and the ego-boosting “Feel Like I’m Back”. However, tracks like “Lullaby”, “Makin’ Love” and “Last Time” lack the fusion of quality and punch that distinguishes the other songs on the album.


In short, Loso’s Way allows Fabolous, one of the most reliable men working in hip hop today, to show that he has grown as an artiste and improved his flow over a beat and behind the mic. Hip hop may be ailing, but it is not dead -- not if committed disciples like Fabolous have anything to say about it.


DOWNLOAD: “When The Money Goes Remix”, “It’s My Time”, “Pachanga” and “The Fabolous Life”



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FROM MY POETRY ARCHIVE: To The Poetess In The Glass House


To The Poetess In The Glass House

(For Dahlia Bartley)

Always the fear of
shameless stone-throwers,
the wrath of the midnight sun
and eating an unwashed fruit.
It is your broken dream
to escape this moonless town
to live in the land
of primroses and pansies
where children chase the evening breeze
with river water fresh on their hands.
You know Time will never
separate your two lives.
This crimson twilight you put
the yarn and needles in the hearth
and close the manuscript
of your last poems (a prize
more fragile than the ceiling
above your head).
You realize there comes the time
to live two lives as one
and then silently put it away.



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Thursday, 30 July 2009

CULTURAL BRIEF: Official funeral for Lady B

A LOVE SUPREME: Sir Alexander and Lady Bustamante, circa the 1970s

Saturday, August 8, has been declared a national day of mourning. On that date, Lady Gladys Bustamante, widow of National Hero and former Prime Minister of Jamaica Sir Alexander Bustamante, will be given an official funeral by the Jamaican government. Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who made the announcement earlier this week, also said that condolence books will be opened on Monday at several places, including Jamaica House, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Bustamante Museum, the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and the Bureau of Women's Affairs.


Lady Bustamante, who passed away at the University Hospital of the West Indies last Saturday, will lie in state next Tuesday at the BITU Headquarters from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and at the JLP headquarters from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. On Friday, August 7, she will lie in state at the National Indoor Sports Centre from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. A thanksgiving service will be held at the Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church on Old Hope Road in St Andrew on August 8 at 1:00 pm. She will then be laid to rest at the National Heroes Park where she will be interred beside her husband.


Since her death, Lady Bustamante has been hailed for her pioneering contribution to the trade union movement in Jamaica and for being a champion of women's and worker's rights. She was also remembered for her undying devotion to Sir Alexander and his many causes. In her popular 1997 self-titled memoir, Lady Bustamante described how she found herself fully immersed in some of the most stirring events of 20th century Jamaica. Born in 1912 in Westmoreland, Lady Bustamante received numerous local and international awards over the years for her work and contribution to national development. She was 97 at the time of her passing.



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NEWS UPDATE: Harris died of heart attack

LATE GREAT: Autopsy reveals Harris died of a heart attack

Best-selling author E. Lynn Harris died of a heart attack last week while staying at the Peninsula Hotel in Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.

Yesterday, July 28, an autopsy was performed on the 54-year-old celebrated author, revealing that the cause of death was hypertensive, arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Harris had a history of diabetes.

"He died of natural causes," the L.A. Coroner's Office told the media. "Essentially, he died of a heart attack."

Arteriosclerosis is the "hardening and thickening of the walls of the arteries." The condition is usually a build-up of fatty deposits on the inner lining of arteries (atherosclerosis), calcification or thickening of the muscular wall of the arteries from chronically elevated blood pressure. However, when arterioscleros affects the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle, a shortage of oxygen delivered to the heart itself can cause a heart attack.

Last Tuesday, Harris, a former IBM executive boarded a train from Alburquerque, New Mexico, to Los Angeles for a meeting with CEO of Edmonds Entertainment, Tracey Edmonds, reportedly to sell the rights to his books. During his travel, he fainted but medics aboard the train said his vital signs were okay.

Two days later while meeting with one of his students from his alma mater, University of Arkansas, where he served as an adjunct professor of English and sponsor and coach of the cheerleading squad, Harris took his last breath.

"Lynn and his student were about to order some food when the student got up to turn on the TV and heard a loud thud," said Laura Gilmore, Harris's personal assistant. "When he turned around, Lynn was on the floor and they called the ambulance who arrived in five minutes, but they weren't able to revive him."

Harris had also completed a screenplay for a remake of the 1970's African-American cult classic, Sparkle (to be produced by Warner Bros. with Deborah Martin Chase and Whitney Houston) and was tapped by Fox Television to write the pilot of a new dramatic series.

Funeral services for Harris will be held on Thursday, July 30, at the Gaines Street Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. A memorial service is tentatively scheduled for the end of August in Atlanta.

Harris was a New York Times bestselling author whose books include
Invisible Life, Not A Day Goes By, I Say A Little Prayer and his latest, Basketball Jones. He also penned the 2004 memoir What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted.


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Wednesday, 29 July 2009

MUSIC NEWS: Tuff Gong Music Tour

SOUND OF MUSIC: Go behind the scenes at Tuff Gong

Tuff Gong International, a member of the Bob Marley Group of Companies, is now offering its new tour called ‘Making of Music.’ During the tour, visitors are educated about studio work as well as CD and vinyl production while getting an intimate look at its state-of-the-art facilities, located at Tuff Gong International – a spacious and secure property at 220 Marcus Garvey Drive, Kingston.

Music has become one of Jamaica’s major exports thanks, in part, to its wealth of naturally talented recording artistes, too numerous to name. But we sometimes forget that there is an entire industry diligently working behind the scenes. Even our most globally recognized legend, Bob Marley had such foresight that he undertook steps to start his own record company.

Through the ‘Making of Music’ tour, Tuff Gong International wants to offer both tourists and locals the opportunity to be exposed to the lesser known aspects of music production.

Tours are conducted on weekdays, beginning at 9:30am; the last tour begins at 4:30pm. Each guided tour is approximately half an hour long.


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Sunday, 26 July 2009

DANCE THEATRE SPOTLIGHT: 2009 NDTC Season

VISION IN WHITE: Male dancers perform Nettleford's "Tintinnabulum"

One of the most appealing elements that draws large audiences to the annual Season of Dance of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) is the magic that unfolds the moments the lights go dim and the curtains open. Gorgeous, elegant and skilled dancers (male and female) move their bodies in praise to the Afro-Caribbean experience, telling stories through dance – at times haunting and heartbreaking, but always healing.

This year, the NDTC celebrates its 47th anniversary, and has kicked off its new season with a series if new and revived works to celebrate the incredible milestone. The troupe will appear at the Little Theatre in Kingston from July 24 to August 23.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Professor Rex Nettleford, the NDTC has been the premier dance company in Jamaica for more than four decades thoroughly fusing aspects of the Jamaican culture, blending our ancestral rituals and traditions with our spirituality and sexuality and our music and dance to create stirring and enduring works of art. Equally notable is the company’s forward-thinking approach to race and religion in its performances, influencing other local troupes to lift their ‘game’.

As the NDTC continues its mode of continuity and revival this year, a batch of new generation dancers and choreographers are making their presence felt. On opening night, senior dancer Kerry-Ann Henry offered her solo piece “Caged”, performing from within a small of circle of light at centre-stage. That performance included a series of insect-like movements as the dancer writhed and contorted her limbs in executing the piece.

Nettleford’s “Sly Mongoose” preceded that performance (as the curtain raiser) bolstered by traditional musical accompaniment rendered by the ever-reliable NDTC Singers. Resembling one of the company’s signature works the piece boldly observes the spirit of celebration. Lively, colourful and uniformed, the dance soared on engaging rhythms and a remarkable union of movement and song.

“Tintinnabulum” (also choreographed by Nettleford) was another revived work that delivered swan-like grace and choreographic success. An artfully rendered look at brotherhood and familial bonds, the work boasted vivid imagery, clever storytelling peppered with emotional truth. Mark Phinn was a standout in this elaborate and entertaining piece.

TRIUMPH: Dancers perform Nettleford's "Apocalypse"

But the major highlight of the night was Nettleford’s 2009 work “Apocalypse”, sub-titled Born Again, Born Anew. Sprawling and deliberate, the piece is a study in skill and high art, where the traditional meets the modern. Sprinkled with Nettleford trademarks (revivalism, quick movements, searing energy, dazzling costuming), “Apocalypse” is a statement work, urging a return to the basics of life. Back to basics. Thankfully, the dancers, led by Marlon Simms and Henry, skillfully maintained the spirit and authenticity of Nettleford’s vision throughout the performance.

Clive Thompson’s new work “Vignettes of Life”, characterized by slow and dramatic choreography and a population of colourful characters, also had its highpoints but did not build to the stately crescendo and eventual climax I anticipated. Kevin Moore’s “Moments of Peace”, on the other hand, provided a decent showcase for a graceful trio of female dancers – Keita-Marie Chamberlain, Stefanie Belnavis and Henry – executed with the right balance of sophistication and skill. The 11-member NDTC Singers thrilled with a suite of folk songs plucked across the region dubbed “Wandering Melodies”.

For those seeking artistic splendour and beauty in movement, conveyed by a troupe that continues to push the boundaries of modern dance today, the 2009 NDTC Season is a sure bet. With its far-reaching influence, no other local troupe, no other troupe stirs us the way the National Dance Theatre Company can.


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TALLAWAH Q&A: Camille Davis

STAGE STAR: Davis gears up for a new role


Don’t try to put actress Camille Davis in a box. After tackling theatrical roles for close to six years, the 20-something performer and shy beauty has displayed a mix of versatility and range that is not often found among young actresses working in Jamaica. She has played women looking for romance, women overcoming family struggles and women coming of age. Now she is gearing up to play Diana, a fearless exotic dancer determined to strike a balance between life and love, in a summer revival of the Patrick Brown play of the same name. Here, Davis dishes about tackling the tough roles, putting her fears aside and her thing for muscular men.


TALLAWAH: Since the start of your acting career, you have played a slew of supporting roles. How do you feel about tackling more leading roles at this stage of your career?

I am very enthusiastic and welcoming of more lead roles. I feel that I am at the stage of my career where I want to do more. There’s no other way to explain it. I just want to do more as an actress. I feel like I have to challenge myself with characters and really surprise myself. And doing more lead roles is definitely a step in the right direction.

TALLAWAH: What did you learn about yourself while researching and rehearsing for this role, and creating this character, who happens to be a ‘go-go’ dancer?

I’ve learned that there is a serious distinction between “work”, as in the go-go dancing, and home. “Work” is the means of survival. It’s not who I am when I’m home.


TALLAWAH: What kinds of characters appeal to you most? Why?

The ones that are furthest from who I am, because they are the ones that challenge me and make me afraid to approach them.

TALLAWAH: What has been the biggest challenge you've had to overcome as you strive to be a better artist?

The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome would have to be myself. My fears.


TALLAWAH: What would people be most surprised to know that Camille Davis enjoys outside the theatre?

I love bowling.


TALLAWAH: So are you planning to settle down anytime soon, and what do you find sexiest about men?

I’ve learnt to not really plan your love-life. Just be as honest as possible with yourself and your partner, and take it from there (Laughs). What I find sexiest about men? Muscles. A nice physique!


Diana opens on August 1 at the Centrestage Theatre in New Kingston for an extended run. For ticket info and show days and times call the Centrestage box office at 968-PLAY.



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Scenes from a Season: The NTDC @ 47





Scenes from a Season: The NTDC @ 47





Friday, 24 July 2009

TRANSITION: E. Lynn Harris

A WRITER'S LIFE: Harris was a master storyteller

Celebrated African-American author E. Lynn Harris passed away earlier today, Friday, July 24, at the age of 54, according to the Arkansas Times.

The beloved author's personal assistant confirmed that his health had declined but did not provide any details as to what caused his death. His best-selling novels such as
Invisible Life, If This World Were Mine and Not A Day Goes By depicted the African-American gay community in a unique way and helped exposed the down-low phenomenon.

Raised in Little Rock, the Michigan native became the first Black male cheerleader at his alma mater, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and returned to teach adjunct courses in the English department last fall.

In remembering Harris, Gil L. Robertson IV, author of
Family Affair: What it Means to Be African American Today said Harris was a source of encouragement for many up-an-coming writers.

"He has always had a kind word and support. E. Lynn was an inspiration and showed all African American authors that with persistence, diligence and talent that success was possible. He transformed the publishing industry and created a new wave of excitement,"he said. "His work will be remembered for his candid discussions about sexuality which is something that the Black community really needs to deal with. I hope his work will lead the Black community to gain a better understanding and embrace the diversity within the Black family."

James L. King, author of On the Down Low called him a trailblazer. "It's because of him and his bold writiing that helped me kicked down the door to write my book. He has wonderful big shoes for us all to fill and will be sorely missed," King said.

Harris' latest novel,
Basketball Jones, tells the story of the gay lover of an NBA star.

R.I.P Mr. Harris (
Not A Day Goes By and I Say A Little Prayer are bonafide and juicy page-turners)



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THE READING ROOM: New In Books




MOVIE SNAPSHOT: Public Enemies

JOHNNY AS JOHNNY: Depp plays gangster John Dillinger


Public Enemies (Universal Pictures)

Director: Michael Mann

Cast: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard and Channing Tatum

Running Time: 2hrs 23mins


Tyrone’s Verdict: B


LIKE many other biopics about notorious crime figures, Public Enemies occasionally falters, but it is a sturdy film. Masterfully and artfully directed by Michael Mann (Collateral), the film is a committed character study of John Dillinger, the outlaw, gun moll and bank robber, who was declared America’s public enemy number one in the 1930s. As a crime drama, though, Mann’s film has its weak moments.


Dillinger is played authentically and stylishly by Johnny Depp, who seems ideally cast. It is refreshing to see Depp tackle a role that doesn’t require him to dress up as a pirate and act a fool. Through Dillinger, we see a brave and clever criminal and womanizer leading a crime wave across the United States. He’s fleet-footed, philosophical, dashing and cocky (“I hit any bank anytime”). It bears repeating that Depp nails the part.


The film also provides sizeable roles for Christian Bale, who appears as Melvin Purvis, the veteran cop out to bring Dillinger down; and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose) as the impressionable French-Indian beauty Billie Frechette, who falls for Dillinger’s sweet talk.


The settings move breezily and regularly between Chicago, Indiana and Wisconsin. There are daring daylight bank robberies, extended gunfights, arrests and prison breaks. The blend of rousing action and gripping intensity is typical of Mann pictures. Vaguely recalling The Assassination of Jesse James and American Gangster, Public Enemies is absorbing and thrilling, despite the few slip-ups in pacing and dialogue. It’s deftly-told and artfully rendered, with an ending to die for.


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Wednesday, 22 July 2009

FROM MY POETRY ARCHIVE: The Painter's Complaint


The Painter’s Complaint

Love, I shall paint no more.
A woman at a showing last night
took me aside to talk about my work.
She said, “You’re a gifted artist.
Your use of chiaroscuro is brilliant.”
But if this were true, there would be Hell
on Earth by now, murderers would hide
in caves fawning, beautiful men and women
would walk the streets naked, motherless children
would live in glass houses, your love would
be evergreen, unchanging as the high seas.

And should I now paint this reverie
I might get scourged and left for vultures
or even worse, ignored.
And then I’d have to take my begging bowl
to the street to ask passers-by for bread
(and that’s when they pass their place, my dear,
and want you to pull down your pants).
So I will abandon art. It’s an ungrateful thing.
I’ll release no more images from the prison of my mind.
And, whoever she was, that designing woman,
I wish she would keep her bloody lies to herself.



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SHAGGY: Charity, Music and the Trouble with the Grammys

THE MEASURE OF A MAN: Shaggy speaks


BY TYRONE S REID


January, 2009.

THE storied grounds of the Big Yard offices and recording studio in Kingston is bustling as usual on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. The parking lot is flooded with expensive-looking automobiles and the yard is abuzz with artistes. It seems everyone is here: from Tarrus Riley and Assassin to Voicemail and D Major. On my arrival earlier, I saw Marcia Griffiths disappear inside the large building.
Grammy winner Orville 'Shaggy' Burrell, the real star of the show, is here too, and has somehow persuaded his manager to close off the rehearsal studio, simply so we will be audible and uninterrupted during our interview.

Between cracking jokes and regularly checking his Blackberry, the conversation caroms every which way, and there's a lot to discuss and catch up on.
There is his highly-publicised charity concert (held yesterday at Jamaica House) to benefit the Bustamante Hospital for Children, his new music and next album. Not to mention his 2009 Grammy nomination for his latest release, Intoxication. Now and again, someone enters meekly to drop something off for the big event the next day. But for the most part, it's just the two of us, occasionally peering around the room, taking in the sheer ghostliness of music equipment, a small stage and pieces of furniture, each unattended.

It doesn't take much to see that Shaggy has a heart of gold. His successful music career aside, the artiste has earned renown for his philanthropic efforts which primarily benefits young Jamaicans. He wastes no time in crediting his late grandmother, Sylvia Sherman, with nurturing
his sensitivity and love for mankind as a boy growing up. "That love you grow with as a youth coming up never goes away. It's that kind of unconditional love I got from my mother and my grandmother," Shaggy says. "I never knew I was poor growing up because of that love we had in our family. Money was never really an issue. And when I look back, I realise that I can't miss something I never had."

Hardly surprising then that at a time when most artistes would choose to rest on their laurels (or try to rejuvenate their fading stardom), Shaggy is hard at work raising much-needed funds to save the lives of dying children.
"It takes one person to start a miracle. And when I saw the level of need [at the Bustamante hospital], it was something that played on my emotions," he reveals. "I never saw [charity work] like this at the forefront of my future. But I am glad it is all happening because everything is a learning activity and I am becoming a better human in the process."

Plans for the 'Shaggy and Friends' concert were totally "last-minute", Shaggy admits, but the man's charisma runs deep, and in no time he had superstars like Macy Gray, Sean Paul, Freddie McGregor, Tyson Beckford and Allison Hinds, all pledging their support and attendance.


"There's a certain amount of gratitude you feel when things turn out well in life. And this is just one of those times. You are raised a certain way, with certain morals, and as you go through life it is your duty to exercise those morals, especially when you look back and see that life has been good to you." Indeed. And if recent history is any indication, life has been good to Shaggy. In a music world often criticized for its dearth of opportunities for Caribbean artistes, Shaggy has climbed his way to the top - and he's still climbing. He has a diamond-selling CD to his credit, a Grammy in his trophy case and legions of loyal fans, who can't get enough of Mr Bombastic.

Last December, Shaggy received some unexpected news: his latest disc, Intoxication, had received a nod for Best Reggae Album for the upcoming Grammy Awards. He's grateful, but he hopes another home-grown son takes the award come February 8.


"I'm hoping Elephant Man wins. He's very excited about the nomination, and a win will mean more to him than to me," says Shaggy, who doesn't plan to attend the lavish ceremony in Los Angeles. "[The Grammy affair] doesn't hold that much significance to me anymore because I have seen it not being given to the right people at the right moment. It has lost its meaning for me, but it is still music's highest honour and you have to respect that," he adds, with a hint of finality in his voice. When it comes to recording new music to satisfy his listeners, Shaggy is always up to the task. His recently released single, “Bad Man Don't Cry” (with its irresistible throwback vibe) and accompanying music video are doing good business on local charts and playlists. He hopes to put another album together in the coming months. But he's in no hurry.

'"I have already recorded some tracks but then I became consumed with all the plans for the charity concert so I put everything on hold for a while. Hopefully, after the third [of January], I can focus on recording the album. But there are no definite plans for an early release," explains Shaggy, who travels regularly between Jamaica, New York and Miami, where he owns real estate. In so many ways, Shaggy, the artiste and playboy we seem to know so well, seems poised to surprise even himself in the New Year. According to the man who blew out 40 candles in October 2009 will be fine, even if it's loaded with work.


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Wednesday, 15 July 2009

EVENT PREVIEW: 'Souldance' Book Reading


WHAT: Book Reading of Jean Lowrie-Chin’s Souldance


WHEN: Friday, July 24 (at 6:30 pm)


WHERE: Stella Maris Church Hall, Shortwood Road, St Andrew


Ian Randle Publications will be hosting a reading of Jean Lowrie-Chin's Souldance on Friday, July 24, at the Stella Maris Church Hall in St Andrew, commencing at 6:30pm. This event is free and open to the public.


Besides the reading of selections from the acclaimed new book, the audience will be treated to performances from musicians Dwight Richards and Boris Gardner. Part proceeds of book sales will benefit the St Vincent DePaul Society charities.


Souldance: Poems and Writings captures the voice of every Jamaican, as well as their thoughts and dreams. Taken from writings spanning Jean Lowrie-Chin's 30-year career, the pieces reflect the events that uplift, as well as burden, Jamaican society. Lowrie-Chin’s poetry is both universal and prophetic, from the warnings against the rat race in 'Slow Down Child', to the startling take on the life of Lee Boyd Malvo in 'Your Son Too'.


Her column selections are both amusing and inspiring, and they reflect on the achievements of outstanding Jamaicans such as The Honourable Louise Bennett-Coverley, Usain Bolt, and examine Jamaica's most pertinent issues, like the future of Jamaican men, in “A Vision of Our ‘Men at Risk’”.


Book reviewer Huntley Medley calls Souldance “a work of literary art that presents a celebration of life vividly captured, even before you begin to turn the pages.” Medley adds that “Lowrie-Chin achieves much with Souldance… [she] has a lot to say and does so beautifully and with power.”


Souldance is now available at bookstores islandwide, other outlets and on Amazon.com.


Sunday, 12 July 2009

THEATRE SPOTLIGHT: JMTC's DREAMGIRLS

BRINGIN' THE NOISE: The cast of Dreamgirls works up a sweat


Dreamgirls
(Jamaica Musical Theatre Company)
Director: Fabian Thomas
Cast: Maurice Bryan, Aisha Davis, Orrin Scott-Stewart and Allison Roberts
Venue: Philip Sherlock Centre, UWI

Tyrone’s Verdict: C+

WHEN it comes to staging a revival of a legendary Broadway musical, you either nail it or you don’t. It’s really that simple. The Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC)’s rebooting of the renowned Tony-winning musical,
Dreamgirls, does not provide the dazzling spectacle many theatregoers will be anticipating, but it is a spirited and diverting take on a classic work that is perhaps older than half the cast that takes to the stage at the UWI Mona-based Philip Sherlock Centre.

The JMTC adaptation of
Dreamgirls has none of that razzle-dazzle kick or electricity hardcore lovers of musical theatre crave; however, it delivers occasional tuneful delights, regular doses of humour and commendable breakout performances (notably Allison Roberts as scorned singer Effie White). At the same time, the show benefits from a strong, committed performance from Maurice Bryan as Curtis Taylor, the scheming car salesman-turned-talent manager.

Dreamgirls is an award-winning Broadway sensation about friendship and showbiz that follows the rise of a three-member female singing group in the turbulent 1960s to mid-1970s in the US. Chasing fame, fortune and musical aspirations, The Dreamettes morph into global superstars (The Dreams) under the guidance of their manager (Bryan) but encounter their share of internal conflict and setbacks. When plus-size group member and former lead singer Effie White (Roberts) is unceremoniously dismissed, The Dreams welcome new member Michelle (Jhameila Smith), who joins new queenpin Deena Jones (Aisha Davis) and Lorelle Robinson (Laveda Thompson) on their meteoric rise to new chart-topping heights.

Among other elements, what has endeared fans most to
Dreamgirls over the years is the wonderfully rich music composed by Henry Krieger. Sadly, the music is not as lush and ear-pleasing as it ought to be at crucial moments during the JMTC show. High notes pose a serious challenge for some cast members, and this sometimes results in a discordant and jarring sound during numbers.

DREAM CHASERS: Cast members in JMTC's Dreamgirls

Courageously stepping into Effie White’s diva-esque shoes, Roberts does her best to convey the singer’s mix of raw talent and vulnerability. She screams and fights her way through the bring-the-house down solo “And I Am Telling You”, but doesn’t give the song the grit and emotion it calls for. She fares much better with a controlled delivery of the pivotal “I Am Changing”. As fading singer Jimmy Early, Cleveland Cathnott also turns in a noteworthy performance, but the same cannot be said for Orrin Scott-Stewart who bellows his way through the part of Early’s manager Marty.

As Deena and Lorelle, Davis and Thompson bring likeability to the roles, but they come up short on substance. Bryan, on the other hand, manages to combine the toughness of a no-nonsense manager with strong singing and convincing acting for a balanced performance.

In short, the JMTC’s production of
Dreamgirls (boasting great-looking costumes and lovely lighting) doesn’t score a home run, but the effort is admirable considering the mammoth limitations the cast and crew must have faced in getting a show of this magnitude and iconic status off the ground. Those in the mood for a temporary diversion will find Dreamgirls a worthwhile experience, but those with high expectations should prepare for a let down.


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