Saturday, 31 October 2009

THEATRE SPOTLIGHT: Me and Mi Chapsie

WHEN LOVE TAKES OVER: Dahlia Harris and Everaldo Creary get close in Me and Mi Chapsie

Me and Mi Chapsie (Aston Cooke Productions)
Director: Michael Nicholson
Cast: Dahlia Harris, Everaldo Creary, Danar Royal, Carlene Taylor and Zandriann Maye
Venue: Pantry Playhouse, New Kingston

Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

chapsie (noun): a virile young man who dates an older woman, usually for economic gain

The twisted ‘indecencies’ of life in some corners of Jamaica bubble to the surface in Aston Cooke’s latest offering, Me and Mi Chapsie, a jolting and scandalous but cleverly made theatrical production that both entertains and provokes thought. At the same time, the play provides much juice for its leading actors, Dahlia Harris and Everaldo Creary, who respond to their roles with vigour and relish under the on-the-ball direction of Michael Nicholson.

Most of the action in Me and Mi Chapsie takes place in upper St Andrew, somewhere between the realms of Notes On A Scandal and The Graduate on the world’s psychic highway. So you know that there’s trouble brewing. The trouble – humorous and serious in turn – begins when two hungry souls collide. Marilyn Simpson (Harris) is a 50-year-old career woman whose husband left her for ‘fresh meat’ after 25 years of marriage.

In the opening scenes of the play she comes across as an uptight prude who is lost in work and always arguing with someone, whether it’s her free-spirited housekeeper, Sheryl (Carlene Taylor/Zandriann Maye) or Janice (a delightful Marsha Campbell) from the company where she works. When Janice invites her out to ‘Bembe’ (of all places) one night, Marilyn meets Donald (Creary), the handsome and sweet-talking sound system selector, who is nearly 30 years her junior. While Donald enjoys the looseness and gangster posturing that is attendant to the dancehall club scene, he is not as immature as his ‘doops’ Sean (Danar Royal, a young actor who shows promise).

After getting off to a rather interesting start in their courtship, Marilyn and Donald are quickly shaken out of their childlike stupor by the dangerous grown-up desire that overwhelms them. Uncertainty soon gives way to potent animal lust as the ‘cougar’ and the ‘cub’ morph into lovebirds. Having been at the shallow end of the dating pool for too long, Marilyn has every intention of making her new relationship work. Hence, she invites her “sexy young stud” to move in, raising concern in her housekeeper and other curious onlookers.

But is Donald, who hails from the ghetto, too good to be true? Is he a schemer just looking to finally ‘come up?’ Almost immediately, the gossip and prejudice come into sharp focus. As expected, the lack of psychological awareness on the part of many in society when it comes to the older man/younger girl, older woman/younger man romantic affair remains pathetically immature. Cooke addresses this in his writing with just the faintest raising of an eyebrow and some sophisticated lines like: “Love has no boundaries; it leaps fences and penetrates walls.”


COUGAR AND CUB: Harris (Marilyn) and Creary (Donald) talk it out

While the power of the playwright to captivate his audience falters slightly in some scenes, he brilliantly explores middle class naïveté and how something as simple as a conversation at a dance session can become something emotionally important and then sexually urgent. What’s more, Cooke is able to fit the puzzle pieces together honestly, while providing his director and actors with adequate creative space to work.

Harris and Creary make a riveting and attractive pair of lovers who know what they want and what they need out of life and their relationship. The ‘love’ scenes on stage are frank without being lewd, something with which only an actress as confident, classy and honest as Harris can be entrusted, and to which Creary impressively responds with raw masculine energy.

Me and Mi Chapsie, which coincides with the first season of the funny, new ABC comedy Cougar Town, is successful in its examination of human relationships on the strength of the lead performances, a well-researched script and the fact that Nicholson directs with the same sensitivity to male and female failings he brought to 2007’s Concubine.

When it comes to the cougar/cub, older woman/younger man liaison, can such a relationship truly work? Is it really love or simply animal lust? It largely depends on one’s attitude to ‘wants’ versus ‘needs’.

ARTISTE FEATURE: Catching up with Barbee

IN HER WORLD: Barbee says what's on her mind

The daring and delightful dancehall-pop artiste opens up about hunting success, her endeavours outside the studio and what she really wants to do with her life

Sitting across from me in a boardroom somewhere in Kingston on a warm Friday afternoon, singer Barbee, attractively attired in a full black ensemble, is talking about her ongoing musical journey. “I’m really excited about the direction in which my career is going. I feel like I’m growing as an artiste more and more every day,” she says, leaning forward in her chair. “I am understanding who I am as an artiste, as well as experiencing personal growth.”

Barbee says all this before revealing that over the course of the past few months, she has had the privilege of sharing the stage with an impressive roster of contemporary hip hop and reggae/dancehall artistes (including Dean Fraser, Fabolous and Bobby Womack) at shows across the Caribbean and the United States. But the bootylicious singer (now in her early 20s) admits that despite this kind of success, so early in her career, nothing has been easy as she strives to carve out a unique place in the saturated dancehall landscape. “Nothing has ever been perfect, but I have to say that I’m truly blessed. I like to look forward; I don’t like to look backwards.”

Born in New York to parents with a Jamaican connection, Barbee says she made a deliberate decision to pursue dancehall and reggae, though she had ample opportunity back in the States to enter the R&B/pop market. “It was definitely a deliberate choice. I want my music to have a strong Jamaican influence, but I don’t want to ignore R&B totally. I have a commitment to Jamaica; that’s why I am here so often to maintain contact,” she says.

For many persons (both industry people and general folks), the name Barbee is synonymous with controversy. Who can forget the Beenie Man/Barbee/D’Angel saga a couple years back? Not only did the dissenting episode put Barbee in a negative light, it almost cost the young artiste (still a relative newcomer) a genuine shot at stardom. But if you ask her about it now, she will tell you that she has closed that chapter of her past. In fact, negativity and controversy is something she says she refuses to focus on.

“I don’t pay attention to [it]. I don’t pay attention to negative things that people have to say. Nobody can take anything from me that I have worked hard for. The only person that can stop you from succeeding is you,” she stresses, getting more serious as she speaks.

She adds: “When you are in the public sphere, people are always going to say what they want, and you have to contend with that. That’s the reality.”

Instead of entertaining gossip and rumours, Barbee says she is pressing ahead with her mission to take her music and passions to the next level. Already, she has set up her own recording studio (Rare Diamond Studios) in Manhattan, where she is busy working on singles like her latest radio-friendly release “Feels So Good.” But she wants to use this new creative space to do more. “For me, it’s about bringing a taste of the Caribbean to New York. It’s my personal studio for recordings and performance rehearsals, but I also want to share it with the public,” she notes.

Barbee, who also relishes beauty products and fashion, is equally committed to giving back to the less fortunate. Last Christmas, she spearheaded a feeding programme that benefitted homeless persons on the streets of Kingston. Now, she wants to bring some structure to the initiative. “I am seeking a charity that will allow me to help persons who need help, especially disadvantaged young girls, because the system is skewed against girls in today’s society,” she observes. “I have access to resources in the US that will support this venture and allow the funds to reach the deserving hands.”

For the time being though, Barbee remains content learning and improving her understanding of the business side of the music industry. “I have a huge responsibility to build my career. The sky is the limit for me, and I am willing to seize one realistic opportunity at a time, as they come along.”

SCENES FROM A RELATIONSHIP: 'The Morning After'


THE PERP:
The robust cast of Aston Cooke's latest theatrical offering, Me and Mi Chapsie transform the play into a runaway hit, blending romance, love and courage for a satisfying pot-boiler.
THE PLAYERS: Dahlia Harris and Everaldo Creary
RATED: PG (Pleasure Guaranteed)







ON THE MOVE: Kim-Marie Spence heads to Antarctica

BRAVE BIRD: Rhodes Scholar Kim-Marie Spence heads to Antarctica

You never know where 2001 Jamaican Rhodes Scholar Kim-Marie Spence is headed next. As it turns out, the courageous young woman, now 31, is leaving Jamaica on Monday November 2 for the start of Kaspersky Lab Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition in Chile, from where the team will depart for, wait for it, Antarctica!

The Kaspersky Lab Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition will see women from eight Commonwealth countries – Brunei Darussalam, Cyprus, Ghana, India, Jamaica, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom – brave blizzards, crevasses and temperatures below minus 40° as they ski 900 kilometres over approximately 40 days to the Geographic South Pole. The expedition marks the 60th anniversary of the Commonwealth as well as demonstrating the potential for greater international understanding and exchange, and highlighting the achievements of women across the World.

The Kaspersky Lab Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition will be a life-changing experience for all the women involved, made possible by the generous sponsorship of title sponsor, International Security Software Company Kaspersky Lab. On reaching their target, Kim-Marie will be the first person from Jamaica to ski to make this symbolic and prestigious journey to the South Pole from the Antarctic Coast.

Speaking about this brave new adventure, Spence said: “I am so excited to be leaving Jamaica for likely the greatest journey of my lifetime. I am truly honoured to be representing my country for this moment in history and look forward to being followed by the people of Jamaica online. I also look forward to coming home and telling everyone all about it.”

Commenting on the expedition, UK team leader Felicity Aston said: “This trip began in my head two years ago and I can scarcely believe we have reached the week of departure. Whilst we know the greatest challenge is still ahead of us, we feel incredibly proud to have come this far with months of planning, training and preparation behind us and a united team of women from around the world ready to conquer the ice.”

“The Commonwealth represents a unique set of worldwide geographies, somewhat matching the entry of Kaspersky Lab into new markets. The expedition will excite our employees and customers and we sincerely wish the team success in their endeavor, which is in the spirit of world-famous breakthroughs.” said Roger Wilson, Vice-president of Marketing at Kaspersky Lab, the expedition’s title sponsor. Congrats, Kim-Marie! Bring back a polar bear!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

EVENT SPOTLIGHT: Shaggy & Friends launch 'I Dare You 2010'

FOR A GREAT CAUSE: Shaggy and Sharon Feanny (second left) pose with a team of SHAKTI do-gooders.

After pulling off a stellar event at the start of 2009, Shaggy and Friends are ready to do it all again. On January 2, 2010, the diamond-selling singer and his hardworking team of fundraisers will take over the grounds of Jamaica House to raise more much-needed funds to benefit sick children of the Bustamante Hospital.

A large contingent turned up on Wednesday at the hospital's conference room for the launch of 'Shaggy and Friends I Dare You 2010'. Last year, according to organizers, the charity concert raised over $25 million, which was used to buy equipment for the hospital. This year, however, they are aiming to double that amount, working in partnership with sponsors Digicel, KFC, Sagicor, Stewart's Auto, Bank of Nova Scotia and Wisynco, which have donated a combined $11 million combined. New

Ticket prices for the concert range from $30,000 (diamond ticket) to $20,000 (platinum) $10,000 (gold) and $5,000 (silver).

A talented roster of artistes is expected to grace the stage. Among confirmed acts are R&B star Joe, Beenie Man, Papa San, Tanya Stephens, Michael Rose, Queen Ifrica, Sanchez, Ce'Cile, Toots Hibbert, Ding Dong, Baby Cham, Machel Montano, Busy Signal and former lead singer of UB40 Ali Campbell, among several others.

MUSIC NEWS: Soul Train Awards adds reggae category

GETTING THE DUE: Ziggy Marley among nominees for inaugural Soul Train reggae award

For the first time in the history of its awards show, Soul Train will recognize the achievements of reggae/dancehall artistes this year, when the ceremony takes place on Tuesday, November 3 at the Georgia World Congress Centre in Atlanta.

Nominees for Best Reggae Artiste:

· Mavado
· Sean Paul · Serani · Tarrus Riley · Ziggy Marley

With four nominations each, Beyoncé, Keri Hilson and Maxwell head the list of nominees for the return of the Soul Train Awards. The awards ceremony, hosted by actors Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, will be the first special aired on BET's recently launched CENTRIC Network. Taping on November 3, the show will be dubbed CENTRIC Presents: 2009 Soul Train Awards. It will premiere on both CENTRIC and BET in a special simulcast on November 29 at 9:00 p.m.

In addition to awards presented in various categories, the show will salute the careers of legendary artists Chaka Khan, Charlie Wilson, Antonio "L.A." Reed and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. The Soul Train Awards will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of Motown Records and honor the late Michael Jackson with the Entertainer of the Year Award. Scheduled performers include Toni Braxton, Trey Songz, Chrisette Michelle, Ledisi and Melanie Fiona.

ARTIST NEWS: Ce'Cile inks major US licensing deal

ANOTHER LEVEL: Ce'Cile signs new music deal for US reality shows

Dancehall fire-starter Ce’Cile has signed a master and synchronization licensing agreement for several songs to be placed in popular TV reality shows in the United States.

The agreement covers the use of Ce’Cile’s tracks for the hit reality television series Keeping up with the Kardashians, which is aired on E! Entertainment Television, and The Real World, Road Rules, Extreme/All-Star Challenge, currently airing on MTV Networks. The agreement was reached with Bunim-Murray of Los Angeles, California, the leading producers of reality TV docu-dramas in the USA.

The reggae and dancehall singer has been gaining in popularity in recent years, and is currently enjoying the success of her hit single “Hot Like We”, jumped to the number one spot on the German Black Music Charts only a few short months ago.

“Ce’Cile is a very talented artist, and she has put in a lot of hard work over the years. This agreement is just further testament of the dedication she has devoted to her career and her music. We are excited for her, and we think it’s great especially for the female artists in the Jamaican music industry. There is a lot of untapped talent there,” says Donald Harper, CEO and President of Jamstar Productions.

Keeping up with the Kardashians is about to kick off its fourth season on E! Entertainment, premiering in November 2009. Real World/Road Rules Challenge recently began its 18th season on MTV.


FILM REVIEW: Law Abiding Citizen

WHEN JUSTICE IS BLIND: Butler (right) and Foxx in Law Abiding Citizen

Law Abiding Citizen (Overture Films)

Director: F. Gary Gray

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Bruce McGill and Regina Hall

Rated: R

Running Time: 2hrs 2 mins


Tyrone’s Verdict: B


Law Abiding Citizen is a taut and gripping psychological thriller that, despite occasional lapses in storytelling and pacing, has enough moments of intrigue and suspense to satisfy viewers. The film also represents a terrific return to filmmaking for director F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job), whose first introduction to many was as the creative genius behind such award-winning music videos as TLC’s Waterfalls.


The film, which boldly examines themes of justice and vengeance, pitches Oscar winner Jamie Foxx (Ray) opposite Gerard Butler (300, The Phantom of the Opera) – both versatile actors in their own right. Butler stars as Clyde Shelton, an upstanding family man whose wife and young daughter are brutally murdered during a nocturnal home invasion. Shelton barely survives the attack. An arrogant young attorney named Nick Rice (Foxx) is assigned to the case when the killers are caught.


In a move that will prove costly, Rice offers one of the killers a light sentence for testifying against his partner in crime, who is sentenced to death. Fast-forward a decade and the one that got away is hacked to pieces Saw style. After casually admitting to the murder, Shelton is imprisoned. Afterwards, he warns Rice that if the justice systems that failed his family is not fixed, key players who were involved in the murder case who die. At first, Rice dismisses Shelton’s admonition, but when his warning starts coming to pass, Rice’s attitude changes. But how can a man engineer a series of killings and bring a city to its knees from behind prison walls?


As Shelton and Rice, respectively, Butler and Foxx excel in their roles as Gray ratchets up the intensity. Particularly impressive are the methods Shelton employs in offing some of his targets (in one scene, a high-powered judge takes a bullet to the head through her cellphone.) Seasoned moviegoers might find some scenes in the latter half of the film predictable, but that takes very little away from the overall success of the picture.


By and large, the story builds to a powerful conclusion as the pieces of the puzzle and the various other elements fall into place. Clever and engrossing, Law Abiding Citizen is high-wire fun, a well-wrought and rigid suspense thriller.


Tuesday, 20 October 2009

OSCAR BUZZ: Hilary Swank in Amelia


Amelia (Fox Searchlight)

Director: Mira Nair

Cast: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Christopher Eccleston and Ewan McGregor


The Scoop: Two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry, Million Dollar Baby) is again courting Oscar buzz. This time, the versatile thesp tackles the role of the legendary American pilot Amelia Earheart, who disappeared while flying over the Pacific in 1937 in an attempt to make a flight around the world.

"Hilary is like Amelia in the sense that she's a spiritual daredevil. She throws herself wholeheartedly into whatever she's doing, but at the same time she has a sense of humour about it, too,” director Mira Nair says of her 35-year-old star, adding, "I couldn't think of anyone more appropriate for the role."

Notes Lisa Timmons of Socialite Life, “There's no way she's not going to get nominated. She's portraying a real-life American icon whose life ended tragically and mysteriously and for heaven's sake, she cut off her hair. If that doesn't do it, then I don't know what would.”




MUSIC NEWS: Jennifer Hudson confirmed for Jamaica Jazz & Blues

HEADLINER: Jennifer Hudson to appear at 2010 Jamaica Jazz & Blues festival

Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) has been confirmed as one of the headline acts for the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival 2010, which will be held from January 24-30 in Montego Bay, St James.

Among the other confirmed acts are Hall and Oats, Jon Secada, Monty Alexander, Roy Ayers, Third World, Billy Ocean, Joe Roy Jackson, Kelly Price, Tamia, Deborah Cox, Marion Hall and the polish jazz band, Max Klezmer Band. More headliners are still to be confirmed.

The Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, which celebrates its 14th staging in January, will feature a range of performances in major hotels in Montego Bay as well as at Cornwall Beach and Blue Beat Martini Bar. The festival will also host a performance at Dolphin Cove in Ocho Rios, St Ann. The week of activities will culminate in three nights of highly-anticipated performances (January 28, 29 and 30) at the Aqueduct at Rose Hall.

Speaking in Canada recently, chief organizer of the annual event Walter Elmore expressed delight at Hudson’s agreement to appear at the festival. "We are happy to have just signed Jennifer Hudson for the 2010 Festival. Jennifer has a magic that surrounds her and the Jamaican audience loves her. We feel she is an excellent addition to the line-up,” Elmore said.

For additional info on the festival visit Jamaicajazzandblues.com


CULTURE NEWS: Over 100 receive national honours and awards

IT'S AN HONOUR: Usain Bolt OJ signs autographs for adoring fans at the National Honours and Awards Ceremony on Monday at King's House

More than 100 Jamaicans received national awards at the traditional investiture ceremony at King's House on Monday, National Heroes’ Day.

Chief among the honorees were celebrated West Indian poet, author and educator Professor Mervyn Morris, who was presented with the Order of Merit (OM), Jamaica’s third highest honour.

Olympic champion and the World's Fastest Man Usain Bolt became the youngest Jamaican to receive to be awarded the nation's fourth highest honour, the Order of Jamaica (OJ). He was among nine persons awarded the honour, which included a posthumous presentation to late broadcaster Wycliffe Bennett.

Seventeen persons were appointed to the Order of Distinction (OD) in the Rank of Commander, while 31 people became members of the Order of Distinction in the rank of officer.

Seven received the Badge of Honour for Gallantry, 16 were presented with the Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service while another 23 received the Badge of Honour for Long and Faithful Service.

ARTS BRIEF: Warner-Lewis, Kei Miller among 2009 Musgrave medallists

Professor Maureen Warner-Lewis


Andrew 'Kei' Miller

Last Wednesday, the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) saluted the contributions of several Jamaicans in the arts and sciences with gold, silver and bronze Musgrave medals. Professor Maureen Warner-Lewis was recognized with a gold award for her contribution to scholarship and literature. A silver medal went to author and poet Andrew ‘Kei’ Miller (Fear of Stones), who was among the 10 writers worldwide long-listed for the 2008/9 Dylan Thomas Prize, an award which celebrates the achievement of a poet or novelist under the age of 30.


Silver medals also went to Professor Helen Jacobs (Organic Chemistry), Professor Gossett Oliver (Engineering), Paulette Bellamy (Music) and Jean Smith (Arts Administration) while bronze awards were presented to Wendy Lee (Environmental Conservation), Diana McCaulay (Environmental Conservation), Rhona Welsh (Needlecraft) and Marguerite Vernon (Music).


The Musgrave Award was established in 1889 in honour of Sir Anthony Musgrave, governor of Jamaica from 1877-1883 and founder of the IOJ in 1879. The award recognises notable contributions to literature, science and art in Jamaica and the West Indies.





BOOK NEWS: Michael Holgate's Indigo wins book award


BOOK BUZZ: Holgate nabs award for children's book Night of the Indigo

Actor and performer Michael Holgate is finding success as an author. His 2009 release Night of the Indigo has won a Moonbeam Children's Book award. This is the first book award for Holgate, who is widely known as an Actor Boy-winning actor and for his creative leadership of the Ashe Performing Arts Ensemble.

Night of the Indigo, which is currently available in stores, at online outlets and via Macmillan Caribbean publishers and its distributors, has been a hit with several critics, including author Gerald Hausman, who notes, “[This] is an excellent book for learning about self-realization -- that it's entirely possible to gain power while giving up willpower… Anyone who wants to know more about overcoming personal obstacles will love Michael Holgate's Night of the Indigo.”

Dorsette Blackwood of the Reggae News Agency agrees, arguing that Holgate has unearthed “a literary gem” with Night of the Indigo. “[The book] is as much sci-fi as it is emotional… Nice first outing for Holgate and a must read for anyone who enjoys a break from the ordinary.”


Holgate’s novel follows 15 year-old Marassa, a Jamaican boy who becomes a mystic warrior and carrier of the light. While the book maps his journey into adulthood, it also shows how Marassa vanquishes fear of self to become a selfless practitioner of inner vision.

For more info on the Moonbeam Children's Book Awards visit Moonbeamawards.com