Friday, 14 June 2019

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Alexandra Gregory talks about her breakout role, her busy life and getting to great

YOU, ME & SHE: Gregory (seated) with COTE costars Wilson and Harris.

WHEN it comes to relationships, Alexandra Gregory is one of those take-no-mess girlfriends. “If I find out that you’re playing around with me, you’re gone,” she says bluntly. We’re chatting out in the yard at the Phoenix Theatre, where her play Case of the Ex just wrapped a two-weekend run. 

Standing at about five-foot-six, with cropped hair and blonde highlights, Gregory brings this same feisty streak to her character in the stage production, playing Dymond, an aspiring singer whose producer boyfriend (Kadeem Wilson) brings his ex (Dahlia Harris) back into the picture. Drama! 

Gregory is so convincing in the role, especially in scenes where she speaks her mind, that she copped a Thespy nomination back in February for Outstanding Supporting Actress. “As an actress I try to be a blank slate to be able to deliver what my director wants,” she explains. “I pretty much do whatever it takes to get the character right, and it was really important for me that the audience knows what this character is about.”

A standout talent of the new generation (alongside Shantol Jackson, Sabrina Thomas and Shakera Kelly), Gregory has no shortage of inspiration. 

“The actresses I admire include Dahlia Harris, for sure. I hyperventilated when I heard that I would be working with her on this show,” says the rising star, who also salutes Nadean Rawlins and was groomed by Suzanne Beadle, while a student at Ardenne High.

These days, she’s still a student, about to complete her first degree (in Psychology) at the University of the West Indies (Mona). “Offstage, I wear many hats,” she reports, laughing. “I’m a swimming instructor, a student and a cat mother.” 

She has a film project in the works, and her performing arts troupe Quilt (she’s been a member since 2017) has a remount coming up. 

At 21, Gregory says she feels like someone on track to greatness. “I’m proud of myself. Not a lot of people can say they’ve done some of the things I’ve been able to do,” she notes. “I’m also my hardest critic, so I feel there’s so much more to accomplish.” 

Who’s That Girl? Getting to Know Alexandra 
> Favourite Movies: Sweet Home Alabama, My Fair Lady 
> Book Recommendation: Olive Senior’s Gardening in the Tropics 
> Dessert Fave: Anything from Sugar & Spice 
> Life Principle: “Do good to people and good will follow you.”

NEWS FEED: Variety of events scheduled as nation mourns Seaga; Samantha Brown-Thompson is the new LASCO top cop…

THE LONG GOODBYE: Activities to honour the life and legacy of former Prime Minister Edward Seaga will slip into high gear in the coming week. On Sunday, June 16, the West Kingston-based Edward Seaga Sports Complex will come alive with the staging of an exhibition football game between a Tivoli Gardens Invitational lineup and a Premiere League All Stars team. The Little Theatre will provide the venue for a tribute concert from the arts community on Tuesday, June 18, featuring the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), Jamaican Folk Singers, Tivoli Dance Troupe, among other performing-arts groups. On Wednesday, June 19, Parliament will host a special sitting in Mr. Seaga’s honour. Meanwhile, the former JLP leader’s body will lie in state at the National Arena from Wednesday to Saturday, ahead of a wake/set-up on Saturday night (June 22) at the Tivoli Gardens Square, commencing at 7:30pm. The country will then pay final respects on Sunday, June 23, at the state funeral, being held at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, starting at 12 noon. Interment follows at National Heroes Park. 

WOMAN POWER: Corporal Samantha Brown-Thompson is the 2018/19 LASCO Police Officer of the Year. Based at the station in Guy’s Hill (St. Catherine), where she is very active in the community, Brown-Thompson was this year’s sole female nominee among the finalists. Her prize package included a $350,000 cash award, the prestigious trophy and gift baskets. 

Quote Me! 
“We face an urgent crisis. It is time to act decisively. My message to governments is clear: tax pollution, end fossil fuel subsidies, and stop building new coal plants. We need a green economy not a grey economy.” – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his message to mark

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

LIFE + STYLE: Sugar Mill restaurant tops winners at Food Awards + Meiling, Claudia Pegus among designers headlining #CFW2019

EAT, PLAY, LAUGH: Culinary genius, gorgeous décor and zest-for-life elegance created a winning combination yet again as the Table Talk Food Awards (the Caribbean’s premier food event) took centrestage on the lawns of Devon House in St. Andrew on Thursday, May 30. Now in its 21st year, the food lovers’ event, put on annually by the Jamaica Observer, honoured hard-working and inventive industry players with awards, as patrons checked out the many booths and sampled the delectable offerings. Among the night’s big winners: Half Moon’s Sugar Mill (Norma Shirley Award for Restaurant of the Year); East Japanese Next Door (Best Watering Hole); Montego Bay’s S Hotel (Best Place to be Seen); Mystic India (Best Ethnic Restaurant); M10 (Best Restaurant for Jamaican Food); Nadine Burie (Dessert Chef of the Year); Executive Chef Dennis McIntosh (Chairman’s Award) and Gary ‘Butch’ Hendrickson (Lifetime Achievement Award). 

MISSION CATWALK: Some 14 designer collections will hit the runway when Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW) returns for its latest iteration, June 13 to 16, at Villa Ronai (Stony Hill) in St. Andrew. What do fashion lovers have to look forward to? “The best of Africa and the Caribbean on a magical floating runway in the Villa Ronai rainforest,” reveals organizers, Pulse. Saturday night’s roster will feature eye-catching, head-turning couture from Mutamba, Tokyo James, Ilaré, Biggy, Ituen Basi, Jeneil Williams and Claudia Pegus. Sunday night’s big finale will see sexy models walking in pieces by Hope Wade, drennaLUNA, The Cloth, Mai Atafo, Lanre da Silva, Heather Jones and Meiling. For more on #CFW2019, including ticket prices, visit

‘SUPER’ SIDE EFFECTS: Jesus Christ Superstar producers want to stage more mega-musicals

STAGE PRESENCE: “We want to produce more of these shows,” says Smith (inset), with one of her young students.

YOUNG arts-based company First Dance Events, producers of Jesus Christ Superstar, which recently wrapped a successful two-night run of the Broadway musical at the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston (after a stint at Iberostar in Montego Bay), say they have every intention of capitalizing on this sweet success. Primarily, they want to use lessons from the experience as a catalyst for orchestrating more large-scale productions of this kind.

“The feedback has been amazing, and we were pleased with the turnout. We were expecting more people in Kingston, but we were close to sold-out when we played at Iberostar,” says chief producer Jody Marie Smith, who runs First Dance Events with producing partner Andre Dixon. “Persons have told us that they enjoyed the show immensely. Many of them said they couldn’t believe the quality of the production and the quality of the acting and vocal performances.”

Both Smith and Dixon are from Montego Bay. Almost the entire cast and crew, including director David Tulloch, also hail from the West. “We are all Montegonians,” Smith tells TALLAWAH, beaming.

First Dance Events, now six years old, is all about the arts, operating a dance studio that offers classes for adults and children. Each year they put on a recital in June and an end-of-year showcase in December. Now, given the success of their first commercial production, doing a musical will be an annual thing.

“We want to produce more of these shows. We are branching out, and adding an annual musical to our calendar is part of the growth strategy we are looking at,” says Smith, who acquired the official Broadway rights for staging Jesus Christ Superstar, a pop-rock sensation by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber that follows Christ and Judas and the disciples, and climaxes with the Crucifixion.

Smith says the opening of a Kingston branch of FDE within a few years could be on the cards. “After six years, we feel accomplished,” she notes, “but there’s much more to come.”

Tulloch, who wouldn’t mind working with them again, has nothing but high praises for Smith, Dixon and the rest of the team. “It’s good to see them branching out,” he tells TALLAWAH. “It speaks to their boldness, and the effort has to be commended.”

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

MAGIC CARPET RIDE: Disney’s new ‘Aladdin’ is a richly entertaining delight

COUNT ON ME: Smith's Genie having the talk with Aladdin (Massoud).

BE honest: if a genie granted you three wishes right now, what would you ask for? For so many of us, the first request would, naturally, be to make all our problems disappear! 

In Disney’s new live-action update of Aladdin, a colourful, magical treat in 3D, our titular hero (talented newcomer Mena Massoud) is much more specific. But, as he ultimately learns, you can’t escape your destiny and, more often than not, the journey is a bumpy, treacherous ride.

Directed by Guy Ritchie (known for much more gritty cinematic fare like Rocknrolla), the movie is also a wonderful slice of nostalgia. You feel like a kid all over again, reconnecting with this Arabian tale of true love, royalty and loyalty.

Aladdin, accompanied by his trusty monkey, Abu, is coerced by the evil Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) to go into the Cave of Wonders to retrieve a lamp. Having completed the task, Aladdin (who discover a mysterious magic carpet) finds himself trapped inside the cave. Curious, he rubs the lamp, releasing the big, blue genie, played with no shortage of pizzazz and cheeky fun by Will Smith. 
What Aladdin, an orphan and an artful thief, really wants is to make himself worthy of the sultan’s beautiful daughter, Jasmine (Naomi Scott), who, with the help of her lady-in-waiting Dalia (Nasim Pedrad), is determined to protect her aging father (Navid Negahban) and their kingdom from the wiles of the power-hungry Jafar. 

The forbidden romance that develops between Aladdin and Jasmine is what gives the movie its pulse – not to mention the genie’s life-of-the-party antics and the infectious musical numbers. 

As with so many of Disney’s offerings, the movie holds valuable lessons about friendship and family, but none more telling than the simple fact that though people don’t always see the real you when you’re ‘royalty,’ real character always shines through. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-