Thursday, 26 May 2011

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: A bumper crop of home-grown musicals headed to the Jamaican stage? Joyful news, indeed.

THE WHITE WITCH EFFECT: New Jamaican musicals to bring the noise.

2011 is shaping up to be a year of song and dance. If the whisperings are to be believed, it will be raining showtunes on the Jamaican theatrical stage in the upcoming season of major productions. One could easily chalk up this excitingly fresh chapter to a ripple effect of the monstrous success of last year’s multi-award-winning smash White Witch, or, in a more personal sense, the long-awaited answer to my fervent prayers for an end to the drought on indigenous Jamaican musicals.

In any case, it’s glorious news indeed. Not that audiences and critics are growing any less fancy of the intense drama or the side-splitting comedy, but musicals are all the rage right now. On The Great White Way (Broadway, for the uninitiated), the ultimate source of splendid theatre, song-and-dance shows are dominating. To wit, The Book of Mormon, about Mormons in Africa, leads all contenders for next month’s Tony Awards with an impressive 14 bids.

In the Jamaican context, popular and charming Broadway shows are often adapted and staged each year, most regularly by the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC), but it is my belief that we need to place the emphasis on creating more of our own Caribbean stories – and now is as good a time as any. For one thing, there is no shortage of tales to tell that will empower, inspire and ultimately entertain people’s socks off.

Sources inform TALLAWAH that, in addition to the annual LTM National Pantomime, which customarily opens Boxing Day, at least six new Jamaican musicals will be brought to life before the year is out. And leading the charge is Keiran King’s anticipated period piece, Last Call (set at Kingston’s once-thriving Myrtle Bank Hotel), which bows into action at the Philip Sherlock Centre in July. Theatre veterans Pablo Hoilett and Dahlia Harris are also, I’m told, working to deliver their own music-driven shows.

And, for the Aston Cooke fans, a new incarnation of the Jamaica 2 Rahtid franchise is well on its way for a summer run. While there’s no word yet on what is in the works from Patrick Brown and the JAMBIZ crew, the JMTC, or Stages Productions, the mere thrill in knowing that there are surprises in store is enough to impart comfort to theatre lovers.

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