Saturday, 28 March 2020

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK: School of Drama connects with Touch / Jamaican artists and COVID-19 / David Tulloch's political ambitions

>> CHILDREN WILL LISTEN
Just before local schools closed recently due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Edna Manley College's School of Drama premiered its 2020 children's theatre production, Touch, playing for two weekends to much-deserved rave reviews. Conceived by Janet Muirhead-Stewart, Touch is a clever, humour-filled musical dramedy for the young and young at heart that doesn't gloss over the serious issues lodged at its core (child abuse, sexual misconduct) but explores them with a fun, light-hearted approach. Using a playground (and occasionally the domestic space as its setting), it's about how trusted authority figures abuse the trust and power they have over vulnerable and impressionable kids. Kids like Sasha, Johnny and Sonny, who are being abused by a stepfather, auntie and uncle respectively, until a no-nonsense (but comically accident-prone) female police officer intervenes and puts them behind bars. the playground serves as a powerful metaphor for life, and the play itself, boasting committed performances from talented student actors, offers a staunch reminder that what we learn from children includes things we too often overlook.


>> 'I WILL SURVIVE': J'can artists vs. COVID-19
Due to the sudden onslaught of COVID-19 that has brought about movement restrictions, artists, artisans and other creatives are feeling the economic pinch more than ever across the globe. But according to Kingston Creative's Andrea Dempster-Chung, the moment offers opportunities for practitioners to stay afloat without falling into the 'starving artist' bracket. "Start telling people how they can find you online, where they can browse your products and how they can donate to offer support, pay online for products, watch your live stream or call you for delivery," she notes. "What lessons can artists take from the global arts community as they respond to COVID-19? There are some real opportunities to rethink the way that we do business in the creative economy... This is a time of high stress, and it's precisely now that arts and culture are needed the most."


>> THE CONTENDER
By all accounts, David Tulloch is serious about fulfilling his lifelong dream of entering politics. Representing the Dr. Peter Phillips-led People's National Party (PNP), the award-winning playwright and producer has taken up the gauntlett and wll be challenging the Jamaica Labour Party's Delroy Chuck for the St. Andrew North East seat during the next General Elections. A second-generation candidate, Tulloch is the son of another one-time parliamentarian Francis Tulloch.










Wednesday, 25 March 2020

COMMUNITY BEAT: News + Notes from Negril to Morant Point

PORTLAND: To meet the growing demand and ensure adequate supply for residents, especially during dry periods, Rural Water Supply Limited (RWSL) and the National Water Commission (NWC) will be carrying out system upgrading work in the eastern and western sections of the parish. The installation and repairing of water tanks and the replacement of pipes and fixtures are among the specific projects to be undertaken. According to Senator Pearnel Charles Jr. (Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation), for work in areas like Charles Town/Kildare, where old water pipes are being replaced, the overall bill is approximately $65 million. 

CLARENDON: Fifteen communities based in the Upper Rio Minho Watershed (URMW) are now better able to prepare for disaster impacts and other hazards, as risk profiles, disaster risk reduction and climate-change adaptation plans for the communities have now been developed. The communities include, among others, Summerfield, Pennants, Crooked River, Kellits and Chapelton. The area is considered one of the major groundwater-producing basins in Jamaica, with annual abstration reaching about 400 million cubic metres within a year. 

KINGSTON: Following Cabinet’s approval for the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) to grant a nearly one-million-dollar contract for the construciton exercise, work is expected to commence soon on a Port Royal Street coastal revetment project. Information minister Karl Samuda says the roadway will be raised to reduce flooding risks from heavy showers, while the minor drains will also be upgraded. At the same time, a 4.7-km boardwalk will be constructed for recreational use, and an 80-metre fishing beach will be put in place to accommodate fisherfolk.








MAN IN THE MIRROR: Career banker and Scotia CEO David Noel draws on consummate professionalism to get the job done

POWER PLAYER: “I actually started out in law but felt drawn to banking,” Noel shares.

ON Friday, March 13, Scotiabank Jamaica hosted its Annual General Meeting (AGM) with shareholders at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston. CEO David Noel, sharply turned out in a sleek navy blue suit, was once again tasked with assuring valued customers that the bank’s operations remain at the usual high standard – even amidst the dreaded coronavirus crisis, which has sparked islandwide fears.

Noel aced his presentation and handled himself impressively with the tough questions during Q-&-A. You immediately see why he was given the top job. up. “I actually started out in law but felt drawn to banking,” he reveals. “Law provides you with a certain type of training. In banking, I get to help clients with investment advice. Both are rewarding, I’d say, and I always enjoy leading a strong team.”

But, to say the least, this first quarter of 2020 has presented him with one of the toughest periods of his career as a leader in the banking sector. As he tells TALLAWAH, he had to huddle with his team recently to draft a strategy for dealing with the COVID-19 emergency, when it comes to bank staff and customer interactions.

“So far we’ve been able to implement certain measures to ensure that customers are fine when interacting with us. We’ve also asked our professional cleaners to come in more regularly to clean and disinfect,” he explains. “And we’ve invested in antibacterial gel dispensers for all our branches across the island.”

The global health crisis aside, Noel continues to carry out functions that draw on all his skills and years of training. “The most critical role of CEO, I’d say, is ensuring that the needs of our investors, shareholders and all our customers are met adequately and consistently. It’s critical that we have staff that is appropriately trained and we’re making the right investments in technology,” he tells TALLAWAH. “We don’t always get it right, but we make the best effort. Scotia has been in Jamaica for 130 years, and we very much feel a part of the community.”

Noel, a University of the West Indies (Mona) graduate, has been working in the Jamaican banking sector for about two decades, two as Scotia CEO. Interestingly, banking was not his top career choice as a kid growing up. “I actually started out in law but felt drawn to banking,” he reveals. “Law provides you with a certain type of training. In banking, I get to help clients with investment advice. Both are rewarding, I’d say, and I always enjoy leading a strong team.”

Now in his 40s, David Noel smartly makes time to reflect on where his eventful journey has brought him – not to mention his evolution into a well-rounded and enviably successful public figure. What advice would he give his teenage self? “Build strong and lasting relationships as you go along, but make time for fun,” offers the industry veteran, who stands at about six-foot-two. “Have a thirst for knowledge, in many different areas.”

How does he spend his downtime? “I like football, but I’m not very good at it,” says the Arsenal fan. “I think I enjoy watching the game more than playing.”









Thursday, 19 March 2020

MAN OF THE MOMENT: Andre Russell’s return to top form brings well-deserved accolades

BACK ON TOP: “I have a different approach this time around,” Russell says.

LAST summer, a terrible knee problem put Andre Russell on layoff, away from the cricket field and the sport he’s so immensely passionate about. But with his fighting spirit firmly intact he’s worked his way back from injury to the international spotlight and the commencement of a new chapter in a storied and ever-evolving career as a sportsman.

“I did a lot of rehab, made a lot of sacrifices – just being home working out and strengthening my body and doing stuff to make sure I’m fit again,” the towering Jamaica and West Indies star tells the Observer’s Sanjay Myers. “I also did a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) and also a stem-cell injection. Since I got those done, my knee has been feeling very good. I think a disciplined diet and avoiding hard-surface running [also helped].”

Out and about again and impressing selectors, he was recalled to the West Indies side in February for the two-match Twenty20 international against Sri Lanka in early March. For the all-rounder, earning a place in the regional team is like the ideal validation of what he brings to the game. “I’m happy to be back in the maroon. I think playing for your region is always the best thing,” he says. “And that’s what I’ve been working on for the last couple of months. I’m happy to be back.” 

No kidding. Per reports, Russell went on to give “an exhilarating Man-of-the-Match performance” as the Windies swept the series with a convincing 7-wicket victory over the Sri Lankans. He was also dubbed Man of the Series. According to the CMC, “it was Russell who really grabbed the attention with a stunning 14-ball unbeaten 40, which took the world champions over the line.” 

His international future looked bleak because of a bad knee in need of surgery. Fast-forward a year later and Andre Russell, who turns 32 in April, is once again in fine form and has every intention of staying there. “Maybe I put pressure on myself playing for the West Indies because I want to do so well,” he tells Myers. “I have a different approach this time around. I’m just going to do my thing, and don’t overthink anything... I hope I can eventually bowl faster.”










TALLAWAH BOOK CLUB: A new novel takes on Boys Town / Tips for winning at life / Wisdom from Heneka Watkis-Porter

THINKING BIG: Who hasn’t felt inspired by Heneka Watkis-Porter? The Jamaican poster girl for the by-the-bootstraps success story (Patwa Apparel founder and CEO, podcast host and motivational speaker), she is a firm believer in paying it forward and sharing the knowledge. To that end, she has self-published Motivate-Inspire-Provoke, a compilation of over 500 inspirational quotes from 300+ thought leaders in over 30 categories, in addition to her own personal hard-earned wisdom on everything from risk and quality to fear and failure to leadership and investment. One such Heneka-ism: “The key to fighting fear is to allow our hunger for a thing to be so much greater than any fear we could ever face,” she says. “When hunger trumps fear, we win.”

LIVING HISTORY: Born in Nigeria to a Jamaican father and an English mother, Jonathan Burke grew up hearing countless stories about his Jamaican heritage. Among the most fascinating was the story of the history and development of Boys Town. Decades later, Burke has transformed those historical notes into clever work fiction for young readers. Packing 120 pages, Coming Home to Boys Town tells the story of the landmark Kingston community through the lives of fictional characters who take part in actual events and interact with people like founding father Hugh Sherlock and legendary cricketer Collie Smith. With illustrations by Michael Bonnick, the book (published by Boys Town Development Ltd.) is Burke’s second literary effort, after 2012’s award-winning Bolo the Monkey, released via Blue Moon Publishing. The author is currently at work on his third book, also aimed at younger audiences.

AGAINST THE ODDS: “Amid the conflicts, disappointments and fears we all face, this book is designed to enrich, empower and enlighten you on the intricacies of life,” shares Sheridon ‘Donna’ Palmer, introducing her 80-page self-help tome Life: You Can Do It – Colouring Your World through Adversity (Westbow Press). Writing chiefly from personal experiences, Palmer, a Jamaican go-getter who’s had her share of ups and downs while making strides in the corporate world and beyond, motivates readers through candid and absorbing prose in chapters like “The Mirror (Self Effect)”, “The Fight (Life Effect)” and Passion & Purpose (Divine Effect).










Friday, 13 March 2020

2019 THESPIAN SPIRIT AWARDS: The Complete List of Winners


OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE 

Behind the Pulpit 
Feminine Justice 
Hell & Powder House 
Jesus Christ Superstar 
Pit to Pulpit 
Special Cuts 
Straight Jacket - WINNER


OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A LEAD ROLE 

Glen Campbell – Straight Jacket 
Rodney Campbell – Feminine Justice 
Brian Johnson – Yours, Truly 
Stephen-Rhae Johnson – Isaiah 
Francois Medley – Jesus Christ Superstar 
Michael Nicholson – Pit to Pulpit - WINNER
Kadeem Wilson – Hell & Powder House 


OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A LEAD ROLE 

Crystal Fletcher – Ananda Alert 
Dahlia Harris – Straight Jacket 
Stephanie Hazle – Hell & Powder House 
Maylynne Lowe – Feminine Justice 
Nadean Rawlins – Straight Jacket 
Sabrina Thomas – Special Cuts - WINNER
Petrina Williams – Behind the Pulpit


OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE 

André Bennett – Ananda Alert 
Philip Clarke – Feminine Justice 
David Crossgill – The Windscream Posse 
David Freare – Jesus Christ Superstar - WINNER
Brian Johnson – Behind the Pulpit 
Oraine Meikle – Special Cuts 
Courtney Wilson – Straight Jacket 


OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE 

Dorothy Cunningham – Once a Man Twice a Wife 
Sakina Deer – Straight Jacket - WINNER
Shantol Jackson – Ananda Alert 
Angela Jarrett – Face the Truth 
Samantha Thompson – Behind the Pulpit 
Karla Tulloch – Amazing Grace 
Renae Williams – Hell & Powder House


BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE 

David Freare – Jesus Christ Superstar - WINNER
Toni-Ann Johnson – Pit to Pulpit 
Natoya Lee – Pit to Pulpit 
Dacoda Mitchell – Prayer Partner 
Maxann Stewart-Legg – Ruckshon Junction 
Devon Tattle – Schampagne Popping 
Miguel Williams – Behind the Pulpit 


OUTSTANDING WRITER 

Fabian Barracks – Ananda Alert 
Suzanne Beadle – Yours, Truly 
Patrick Brown – Straight Jacket - WINNER
Basil Dawkins – Once a Man Twice a Wife 
Brian Johnson – Behind the Pulpit 
Rashiem Shepherd – Special Cuts 
Mikhail Solomon – Pit to Pulpit 


OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR 

Peter Abrikian – Feminine Justice 
Fabian Barracks – Ananda Alert 
Patrick Brown and Trevor Nairne – Straight Jacket 
Akeem Mignott and Brian Johnson – Behind the Pulpit 
Mikhail Solomon – Pit to Pulpit 
Greg Thames – Isaiah 
David Tulloch – Jesus Christ Superstar - WINNER


The Louise M. Dunk Lifetime Achievement Award – Oliver Samuels 










Tuesday, 10 March 2020

WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE: Marlene Street-Forrest honoured with Business Leader of the Decade award

HER FINEST HOUR: Street-Forrest (centre) and her team have led the JSE to unprecedented success.

FOR the past five (of the 20) years that Marlene Street-Forrest has been with the Jamaica Stock Exchange, she has been serving in the post of Managing Director. To say the least, it’s a job fraught with countless challenges, but she has a surefire strategy for continuing to get the work done with such remarkable results. And as the records show, the results form a long list, including the JSE’s distinction of being named the world’s best performing stock exchange for 2018 and landing among the top four for 2019.

“I have a fantastic group of people that loves the work they do. The best way to describe them is committed and conscientious. And with an event like our annual JSE conference, it draws on all of their skills and their dedication. I just get out of the way and allow them to execute,” she told TALLAWAH with a river-wide smile at the recent closing session of the conference (now in its 15th year), which climaxed with Street-Forrest being honoured with a prestigious leadership award – Business Leader of the Decade – from the International School of Greatness, presented by world-renowned motivational speaker and executive coach Alex Ihama.

According to the citation, the plaque is in honour of Street-Forrest’s efforts to heighten the vision and image of the Jamaica Stock Exchange with a series of strategic initiatives inspiring the next generation. “I am simply overwhelmed. Obviously, I was wasn’t expecting it. I am really humbled by it,” says the team leader, who sports a plump five-feet-six-inch frame and whose previous honours include the National Order of Distinction (in the rank of Commander) from the Jamaican government.

Like a true leader, Marlene Street-Forrest is always looking ahead to what’s next. “As we approach the end of our 50th year, we eagerly look towards the next stage of our existence, which we anticipate will be to continue the expansion of our borders combined with preparing for the changes that are coming to our markets,” she notes in the souvenir magazine for this year’s conference. “We strive to ensure that our stellar performance is not only recognized as being one of the best performing stock exchanges over the years, but that our regional people can feel the positive impact on their lives through wealth creation and social advancement.”










Monday, 9 March 2020

LIFE + STYLE: 2020 J’ca Rum Fest highlights / Festival Queen launches national project / How to have a great day

>> Full of ‘Spirit’: Jamaica Rum Festival 2020 offered a two-day experience to remember
A good time was had by all… By all accounts, patrons had the time of their lives at the recent staging of the Jamaica Rum Festival (now in its second year) at the Hope Gardens in St. Andrew, where a mix of good food, electric musical performances and, of course, an endless supply of R-U-M beverages and other refreshers kept everybody in high spirits well into the wee hours of the morning. Highlights above: Minister Ed Bartlett and J. Wray & Nephew Chairman Jimmy Lawrence; Naomi Cowan serenading the crowd; Bugle and Marsha Lumley; Freddie McGregor rocking the stage; Alaine having a super-fan moment; JWN Academy seminar participants; Patrons having a blast; Emcee Rushane ‘Rushcam’ Campbell and two lucky prize winners.

>> The ‘Good Food’ Crusader: Khamara Wright introduces new wellness-and-nutrition initiative 
Reigning Miss Jamaica Festival Queen, Khamara Wright, has launched her national project, the wellness-and-nutrition initiative “Nourish to Flourish,” whose main objectives include heightening awareness of the need for healthy living and eating practices, showcasing the versatility of Jamaican foods, championing Jamaica’s culinary heritage and promoting the provision of healthy meals in local high schools. “I would like to see more persons empowered to eat the things that are good for us and how to prepare it,” says Wright, a University of Technology graduate and trained sous chef. “What we eat impacts our performance and our well-being.” 


>> TIME TO REFLECT 
Here’s a great end-of-the-day routine to try, courtesy of The Joy of Missing Out by Tonya Dalton: focus on evaluating the day you just had. Did you put too much on your plate? How was your stress? Attitude? Focus? If you consistently score high on stress and low on attitude, make some adjustments.










AT THE MOVIES: The Invisible Man reels you in with intriguing plot, clever twists

FEAR FACTOR: Moss is a woman fighting for survival in the new thriller.

WHAT you can’t see can hurt you. Putting it mildly, that’s the gist of the story in The Invisible Man, a twisty, suspenseful domestic thriller that is not without its faults. But that doesn’t ruin your overall enjoyment of the film, written and directed by Leigh Whannell.

Elizabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale, The Kitchen) turns in a dynamite performance as Cecilia Kass, a young architect who flees her abusive and controlling boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) at the dead of night. When she’s told, days later, that his lifeless body has been found (an apparent suicide), she feels free for the first time in years.

Then, strange things start happening. An invisible entity has started wreaking havoc. Before long, Cecilia is convinced that it’s Adrian who’s haunting and tormenting her. Not a poltergeist. Did he fake his suicide? Has he discovered a way to be invisible? Given his enormous wealth and reputation as a world leader in the field of optics, Cecilia is not surprised.

But no one is buying her theory. James (Aldis Hodge) and Sydney (Storm Reid) – the cop and daughter who have given her a place to stay – give her the side-eye. So, too, her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) and Adrian’s brother Tom (Michael Dorman). Even so, Cecilia is determined to prove it and liberate herself from the madness before the body counts starts piling up and she is forced into a mental institution. 

Moss is a compelling presence throughout, skillfully zoning in on the vulnerability, anxiety and quiet strength that makes Cecilia such an intriguing, sympathetic character. 

And, for the most part, the movie (clocking in at close to two hours) delivers on its fascinating premise, ratcheting up the suspense and rewarding viewers who like to pay attention to the little details. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+










Saturday, 7 March 2020

NEW MUSIC REVIEW: Rondell Positive vs. Kevin Downswell – Who has the hotter new gospel track?

KEVIN Downswell’s increasingly vast musical catalogue includes up-tempo praise-and-worship anthems (“Stronger”, “I Feel Like Running”) and beautifully crafted gems that inspire deep reflection (“Safe”, “The Meaning of Life”, “If It’s Not You”). His latest release, “Carry Me,” easily falls into the latter category, impressing listeners as a powerful, moving prayer that reminds us that we all need divine guidance and direction in these deeply troubling times. Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, it’s produced by the artiste’s own Downswell Records. And we hardly mind the excessive length, given its melodiousness and soulful-spiritual appeal…. Rondell Positive, meanwhile, has scored one of the most life-affirming and radio-ready tracks of his career, with the release of “The Mirror (We are the Change),” an upbeat record echoing the timeless message that real, impactful change on society, and the world at large, starts with the man in the mirror. Produced by Barbwiya Music, expect this one to rule local gospel charts heading into summer. 
“Carry Me” (A-); “The Mirror” (B+)

Also enjoying rotation:

>> Dancehall: Money talks, money is power… Masicka is all about his paper on the slinky, Armzhouse Records-produced track “Rich,” which celebrates the mile-high life and the all-powerful dollar sign. B

>> Reggae: Off his buzzworthy EP of the same name, Mortimer’s “Fight the Fight” speaks to the courage and conviction required for overcoming trials and riding out life’s storms. B+










Thursday, 5 March 2020

Q-&-A: Actor Kadeem Wilson talks nerves, sex and relationships, and why he wants to play Bob Marley

HOT STUFF: "A brilliant mind is what I'm most attracted to," Wilson says of his dating life.

AT 29, Kadeem Wilson has solidified his rep as one of our most versatile stage and screen actors who can convincingly portray the good guy (Case of the Ex), the villain (this season’s Hell & Powder House) and the in-between (Sprinter). As such, he remains a much sought-after leading man who, seemingly, always has something in the works. 

To wit, he has shot a few pilots for projects that are now being further developed. Currently on stage at the Jamaican Shopping Club Theatre, playing lover-boy with a bad-boy streak Antonio in Hell & Powder House, he chats with TALLAWAH about roles, romance and what makes a great relationship. 

TALLAWAH: Even though you’re now a young veteran in the biz, do you still get nervous before a big show or any other on-stage performance? 
Kadeem Wilson: Not any more. The only thing that would make me nervous or anxious before a show is if something is out of place or I can’t find something that I need. Otherwise, I’m good. What calms me though is exercising. I’ll do like 100 push-ups, 50 squats and vocal warm-ups before I go on stage. Every single time. It’s how I get my mind ready. 

TALLAWAH: In your latest play, Dahlia Harris’ Hell & Powder House, you’re romancing sweet, beautiful but somewhat naïve Janet. In general, what traits do you find most attractive in someone you want to date? 
KW: For me, beauty is only skin-deep. A brilliant mind is what I’m most attracted to. I love when she can express and articulate herself well. That way we can have a great conversation and stimulate each other’s minds. 

TALLAWAH: So when you’re dating, are you more into staying in or going out? 
KW: Out, definitely. If we’re indoors that will lead to the physical, but if we’re in a public space we can really get to know each other better. It forces us to open up to each other. 

TALLAWAH: Career-wise, which real-life person, alive or deceased, would you most love to portray on stage or in a movie? 
KW: Bob Marley. I would really go into my Method acting for that. I’ve seen documentaries that they’ve done about his life, but in terms of a biopic it should be something that does justice to his legacy, and that would be a real accomplishment for me.

>> Review: Hell & Powder House is pulse-racing entertainment










MASTERS OF THE ARTS: Remembering Rex tribute concert honours the work and legacy of Noel Dexter, Barry Moncrieffe and Rex Nettleford

HEARTS ON FIRE: The dancers brought grace and poise to their performances.

THAT Barry Moncrieffe, Noel Dexter and Rex Nettleford all worked with each other at some point, in one capacity or another, made the recent renewal of Remembering Rex – a joint cultural tribute honouring all three departed stalwarts – all the more fascinating.

Once again, the event (hosted by the Little Theatre in Kingston) offered the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), the University Singers and the Rex Nettleford Foundation the opportunity to salute the life and legacy of this great man. But this time around, the celebration was supersized (complete in three parts), as Moncrieffe and Dexter were also given moments of glowing tribute channelled through sterling examples of artistic excellence.

Part One was dedicated to Moncrieffe and featured five performance pieces. The NDTC Singers reprised their Buju Banton medley (“Journey”) from last summer’s 2019 season with much aplomb, while soprano Carolyn Reid-Cameron hit some golden notes during her rendition of the spiritual gem “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me.” The dancers, meanwhile, offered two excerpts from Nettleford’s 1978 masterwork The Crossing – “Hush” and “Goodbye Motherland” – ahead of a performance of Troy Powell’s rapturous 2015 work Unscathed.

Part Two was in loving memory of Dexter and featured the University Singers giving appealing, lavishly costumed treatments of the composer-songwriter-master arranger’s folk ditties “Every Time I Pass”, “You Tell a Lie” and “Man & Woman Story.” The Singers were later joined by the NDTC company for a splendid all-white rendering of the Nettleford-Dexter opus Psalm 150, a fusion of melody, musicianship and movement.
The final segment was in honour of Nettleford and opened with dancer Mark Phinn captivating the packed theatre auditorium with his graceful movements, doing Clive Thompson’s Of Sympathy and Love. The Singers returned, clad in revivalist white (with red headwraps), for “Rastaman Chants,” arranged by Ewan Simpson and O’Neal Mundle. 

Nettleford’s epic 1971 work Kumina, a tour-de-force of the traditional forms and Afro-Caribbean rhythm and power, brought the curtains down on the show, with Marlon Simms and Keita-Marie Chamberlain leading the company to an ovation-worthy finale. 

Video presentations showcasing the decades-long contributions of all three stalwarts were played throughout the evening. Another major highlight: scholarships being awarded by the Rex Nettleford Foundation to three deserving students – Darien Steele (the Cornwall College Scholarship), Alikah Bernard (the UWI/Rex Nettleford Hall Scholarship and Dwauntea Chambers (the Rex Nettleford Dance Scholarship).










Monday, 2 March 2020

NEWS + NOTES: CEO Makeba Bennett-Easy resigns from PSOJ … First Rock enters the J’ca Stock Exchange … Fontana posts 20% surge in profits

MOVING ON: The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) will be on the hunt for a new CEO, as Makeba Bennett-Easy is stepping down from the post, effective March 25. According to a release from the organization, Bennett-Easy has “expressed satisfaction with her tenure and reiterated her commitment to support her successor” in ensuring a smooth transition. “We will miss her expertise,” says PSOJ president Keith Duncan. “Her contribution has been invaluable to the transformation of the organization to adapt to changing trends and shape [our] current strategy.”

STEPPING UP: Hailed as one of the fastest growing young companies in the English-speaking Caribbean, First Rock Capital Holdings has been officially listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange. The ceremony took place at the JSE head office in downtown Kingston last Friday. An investment company focused on real estate and private equity (owning several properties in Jamaica, Cayman and the United States), First Rock’s initial public offering (IPO) closed on January 31, following an oversubscribed sale to some 2,500 participants, which raised approximately US$13 million. Overall, First Rock has pulled in more than $5 billion from investments.

CASHING IN: For popular pharmacy operators Fontana Limited, opening their swanky Waterloo Square branch in St. Andrew last October is an investment that is reaping rich dividends. Per The Financial Gleaner, Fontana grew its overall profits by 20% in the quarter ending December 2019, thanks to sprightly activity at the new branch. For the quarter, their coffers raked in $1.4 billion, an increase of 31% when compared to the same period in the previous year. Fontana Waterloo is the sixth store in a growing chain and the largest, boasting 35,000 square feet. The company describes their December quarter performance as the most successful in the 50-plus years they have been in operation.










Tuesday, 25 February 2020

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: Patrick Brown’s Straight Jacket leads Thespy nominees with 8 nods

BEST IN SHOW: This year's crop of nominees include powerful musicals and captivating dramas.

THE Patrick Brown comedy-drama Straight Jacket leads this year’s pack of nominees for the Thespian Spirit Awards (the Thespies) with eight nominations, including bids for Outstanding Ensemble, lead actor (Glen Campbell), lead actresses (Dahlia Harris and Nadean Rawlins), sipporting castmates (Sakina Deer and Courtney Wilson), writing and directing.

The sizzling church drama Behind the Pulpit, the debut offering from Lighthouse Productions, has come in second with seven nods, ahead of the pulsating pop-rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar, the remount of Basil Dawkins’ Feminine Justice and the family saga Pit to Pulpit, which picked up five nominations apiece.

Also earning multiple mentions: Dredz Productions’ Special Cuts and the Dahlia Harris-penned firecracker Hell & Powder House

The shows vying for the coveted Outstanding Ensemble award are Behind the Pulpit, Feminine Justice, Hell & Powder House, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pit to Pulpit, Special Cuts and Straight Jacket

Meanwhile, comedy legend Oliver Samuels is being honoured with the Louise M. Dunk Lifetime Achievement Award. 

An annual salute to excellence in Jamaican theatre, the Thespies are presented by TALLAWAH Magazine. This year’s winners will be announced on Feb. 29.

>> And the Nominees Are: See the complete list of nominations










Monday, 24 February 2020

LIFE & STYLE: Stellar performance lineup for J’ca Rum Fest + Tessanne Chin embraces motherhood + Marlon Samuels launches ‘Sextillion’

>> SENSUAL SEDUCTION: Marlon Samuels launches new personal-care line
Marlon Samuels is one in a ‘sextillion’. Well, that’s the name of his new personal-care line, which got a well-supported launch at the Terra Nova Hotel in St. Andrew last Wednesday. (The event doubled as his birthday celebration.) More specifically, Sextillion 7th Power includes a his and hers fragrance sure to titillate the senses and, as its name suggests, help set the mood. While the men’s fragrance contains traces of bergamot, pineapple and musk, the womrn’s scent is an appealing blend of sandalwood, amber and other seductive notes. [Launch highlights above: Dancehall Queen Carlene Smith looking super-pretty; Songstress Ikaya in performance; ZJ Sparks on the ones-and-twos; the man of the hour and his mini-me; the good-stuff on display]. 

>> MAMA MIA: Tessanne’s baby joy 
Tessanne Chin has landed the role of a lifetime: motherhood. On Saturday, Feb. 1, the songbird gave birth to baby girl Zaia Christine Crooks, the first child from her union with Brandon Crooks, whom she wed last October. It goes without saying that baby Zaia (who weighed in at 7 pounds 15 ounces) is the new apple of Tessanne’s eye. The doting mommy and The Voice season 5 winner told her Instagram family, “We are completely and utterly in love and grateful to God for you, our darling girl...” Congrats and all the very best to the happy and beautiful family. 

>> J’CA RUM FESTIVAL: Ky-Mani Marley, Protoje among headline acts on stellar lineup
The entertainment package being planned for this month-end’s Jamaica Rum Festival will have patrons dancing the night away. The two-day event is set for Saturday, Feb. 29 and Sunday, March 1 on the grounds of Hop Gardens in St. Andrew. The lineup for night one will see live performances from Protoje, Spragga Benz, Ding Dong, Bugle, Tassellated, Naomi Cowan and Mortimer, while the second night will feature sets by Ky-Mani Marley, Capleton, Cocoa Tea, Indie Allen and Freddie McGregor. For ticket info and more, visit touchstoneticketing.com.










Friday, 21 February 2020

PROMISES, PROMISES: Highly entertaining Ruckshon Junction gives the people what they want

PEOPLE POWER: For these determined residents, better mus' come.

Ruckshon Junction (LTM National Pantomime)
Director: Robert ‘Bobby’ Clarke
Cast: Ray Jarrett, Kevin Halstead, Derrick Clarke, Maxann Stewart-Legg and Carlton Butler
Venue: Little Theatre, Kingston

POLITICIANS are well aware that in Jamaica, especially in certain quarters, you will get the people’s support – but it will cost you. “Weh yuh ah do fi we?” is a common refrain. And failure to make good on your promises will cause serious “ruckshon.”

For their 2019/2020 offering, the LTM pantomime company has cooked up a hugely enjoyable, visually appealing delight that looks at hard-knock politics, people power, roots and history, and what can happen when those seeking higher office choose to play hard ball with voters.

Slight hiccups aside, Ruckshon Junction fuses music (catchy and danceable tunes), drama, irrepressible community spirit and good old-fashioned storytelling into a splendid mix that appeals to the entire family.

With elections coming up, Mr. Biggz (Carlton Butler) wants the people of Top Junction to re-elect him. He’s a man who puts his money where his mouth is. And with his trusty sidekick Lucky Pig (Derrick Clarke) in tow, he goes about offering “freenis” galore. 

Naturally, the struggling residents happily accept. But not all constituents count themselves among his fanbase, most notably community matriarch Miss Vie (Maxann Stewart-Legg) and her daughter, Kenya (Jasmine Lue), who are adamant that he should not be allowed to abuse his power and do as he pleases. 

When a planned community-park development project gets underway, for which Biggz recruits the mysterious Crocodylus (Ray Jarrett), that’s when sparks fly and their differences become painfully clear. It leads to a showdown so explosive that Top Junction and its traditional way of life may never be the same again. 

As Ruckshon Junction attests, the way of doing things at the LTM is gradually making way for a fresher take by a new, high-energy generation (led by the Pantomime Workshop), taking this nearly 80-year-old institution into the Instagram era. 

From last year’s All Aboard to this season’s offering, the efforts are yielding succulent fruit. After all, a right balance of the traditional and the modern never fails to provide an entertaining package. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+