Friday, 29 May 2015

EPIC ACHIEVEMENT: Solidly entertaining King David yields stirring music, powerful performances

CURTAIN CALL: Cast members performing the production's show-stopping finale. Inset: Williams, who plays David.

When the tragic Absalom (Chevaughn Clayton) and his colleagues convert his father David's (Wynton Williams) royal court into a mini dancehall to the tune of the bouncy single "Rise Up", the audience gets to witness a moment of Biblical history given a thoroughly modern and Jamaican interpretation that compellingly reminds one of theatre's singular power to delight and astonish.

That crowd-pleasing scene is just one of the highlights in Father HoLung & Friends' King David, a show chock-full of visceral moments (the slaying of Goliath; Mikal's drowning), well-crafted and memorable musical numbers ("Building a House", "Searching for a Leader") and fierce acting turns from a cast of neophytes and veterans, led by Williams in a tour-de-force reminiscent of his triumphant showing in The Messiah and Moses.

With next to nothing to complain about, save for occasional glitches with the microphone, the show is a solid success. Thanks to the collaborative synergy of director Greg Thames, lighting and effects maestro Robin Baston, set designer P.J. Stewart not to mention a committed cast of nearly 70 King David fuses commendable storytelling, wondrous singing and technical wizardry into a satisfying and solidly entertaining whole.

But nothing can upstage the power and appeal of the peerless source material: a stirring Old Testament narrative, respectfully adapted by Richard HoLung, that captures the trials and tribulations, foibles and failings of a righteous man whose entanglement with desire almost brings about his destruction. And it's in this very context that the musical drama yields some of its most potent lessons about human nature, compassion and grace under fire.

Kudos to the acting ensemble, particularly the principal players, for tackling their roles with admirable brio: Hugh Douse (as the vengeful King Saul), Leighton Jones (lifelong friend Jonathan), Andre Shepherd (terrific as the young David), Allan Lewis (rocking a pair of stilts to play Goliath), Cateicia Smith (the prophetess Cassandra), Hanief Lallo (as army leader Uriah) and Kristen James, alternating with Geramie Yson as the fateful Bathsheba.

An achievement fuelled by ambition and electrifying entertainment value, King David is a worthy addition to the Father HoLung and Friends canon. Tyrone's Verdict: A-

> ON THE RECORD: TALLAWAH talks with song-and-dance man Wynton Williams

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