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+

Thursday, 20 February 2020

AT THE MOVIES: Bad Boys for Life packs great humour and explosive action

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Lawrence (left) and Smith get ready for action.

EVER since movie buffs helped turn Bad Boys and Bad Boys 2 into cult classics, Marcus Barnett and Mike Lowrey have been the poster boys for the ride-or-die friendship. As top cops working their beat for over 20 years, their bromance has seen them weathering countless storms and surviving too-many-to-count near-death escapades. Not much has changed. The boys are back in Bad Boys for Life, and their relationship is put to the ultimate test.

To say the least, Bad Boys 3, the first big hit of 2019, was well worth the wait. It’s an action-packed, well-paced and wildly entertaining reboot of the fan-favourite series starring Will Smith (Mike) and Martin Lawrence (Marcus), who reprise their iconic characters with relish, bringing a balance of humour and seriousness to the screen.

Fresh from welcoming his first grand-child into the world, Marcus, newly retired as a Miami cop, wants nothing but peace and quiet as he embarks on this new chapter of his life. Mike, on the other hand, is not so fortunate. A chapter of his past, with ties to a Mexican drug cartel, has resurfaced with a deadly plot.

At the centre of this diabolical scheme is a vengeful mother who dabbles in witchcraft (Kate de Castillo) and the loyal son (Jacob Scipio) who does her bidding like a trained assassin. They have a bizarre connection to Mike that soon morphs into a vendetta. They’re obsessed with killing him. 

Reluctant at first to come out of retirement to ride with his friend one last time, Marcus eventually has a change of heart, and together they reignite that fire, reintroducing us to the chemistry that made them such a fearless dynamic duo. 

Expect appearances from Joe Pantoliano (as their police captain), Vanessa Hudgens (a tough-cookie rookie officer), DJ Khaled (a meat-shop boss) and Paolo Nunez (as Rita, who leads a newly formed special-ops police team). 

Bad Boys for Life, directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, juxtaposes the lush, beautiful scenery of Miami against a dark and ugly underbelly of hardcore crime. But what one finds most intriguing is its mix of tough action sequences (including some grueling fight scenes) with dialogue that comes laced with wisecracks. 

Audiences are in for a cinematic experience that frequently feels like being a passenger on a speeding motorbike. We can’t wait for Bad Boys 4. And if it happens, what an epic title that would make. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: On-the-rise gospel star Rhoda Isabella is living her dream and looking forward to megasuccess

SOLO ACT: The songstress in her element during a 2019 concert performance.

THE first time Rhoda Isabella heard her song on the radio, she was over-the-moon excited. “It was quite a feeling of accomplishment,” the gospel sensation says, “like I was starting to make my impact on the world.” She can say that again.

Since embarking on a solo career in 2017, the former background singer for Jermaine Edwards and member of the now-defunct group iWorship has been making admirable strides, buoyed by her powerhouse talent and irrepressible can-do spirit. 

“I’ve been able to perform on some of the biggest stages to introduce myself to audiences all over,” says the songstress, whose crowd-favourite hits “Still Breathing” (a reflective ode to survival and standing strong) and “Church Medley” (a fiery suite of praise-and-worship anthems) continue to resonate and move people to dance and testify.

What’s more, influential people have been taking notice. This past January, Tony Rebel booked her to perform on Rebel Salute, making her one of the very few non-secular artistes ever invited to bring some variety to the festival’s lineup. “He heard “Still Breathing” and then saw me performing it on TV, and he said the song really touched him,” she tells TALLAWAH. “I have to give him props for inviting a young gospel artiste like me to do the show. It’s an amazing experience. Not every promoter is going to reach out like that.”

Rhoda Isabella is a described Jesus girl who gets her greatest thrills when making music and delivering a live performance. A graduate of Merle Grove High, she holds a Bachelor’s in Language and Communication from the University of the West Indies (UWI) and a music-performance degree from the Edna Manley College, which she received in 2013.

Great company for conversation, she was the special guest performer at last month’s National Leadership Prayer Breakfast at the Jamaica Pegasus, mere months after officially releasing her 11-track debut album, Kingdom Rhode. 

“I’d say I’m most looking forward to taking on the world in a big way,” shares the 30-year-old, whose surprising non-musical passions include scuba-diving and horse-back riding. “I’m known for my crazy hobbies,” she admits with a laugh. “I like being adventurous.”

HIS WINNING WAYS: Race-walking champion Duwell Allen draws on technique and proper nutrition for desired results

CHAMPION BOY: Allen, who completed 32 races throughout last year, demonstrates his winning technique.

With his unassuming vibe and medium-built five-foot-seven-inch frame, Duwell Allen might appear to the average onlooker as an Average Joe. But those who know him, especially in local sporting circles, know that this humble guy is in fact a powerhouse athlete with real championship spirit.

For the past two years, the 31-year-old has been the most dominant force in the sport of race-walking in Jamaica, copping first-place titles, trophies and numerous gold medals at 5K, 10K and 2K road races from Kingston to Montego Bay. He’s been at it since 2003. “I realized running wasn’t for me,” he tells TALLAWAH, basking in post-victory satisfaction at the Run for Your Heart 5K in New Kingston on February 2. (He also won this past Sunday's Sagicor/Sigma Run/Walk at the same venue).

“I tried running at first, but I wasn’t doing so well. Then I recalled that I’m always walking. So in 2013 I decided to take up race-walking seriously. I started out coming like 5th and then 3rd, but I wanted to win, so I worked on it, and it started happening. In 2018, I started to dominate.”

He did 26 races in 2018, stepping it up to 32 in 2019 – sometimes participating in as many as three races in one day.

Allen has developed a results-oriented training regimen that incorporates technique with a strict adherence to the discipline required for form development. “From Sunday to Thursday I work on my fitness routine. I try to build up all the muscle groups,” he explains. “A little running is involved, but walking is my thing, so I’m always perfecting my technique.”

How he stays in tip-top shape to outperform the competition also has a lot to do with proper diet and nutrition. “I’m a vegetarian, so I eat a lot of fish and vegetables,” he shares. This month he’s trying something new. “I’m trying the ketogenic diet, which gives you nutrition from fats. About 65-70% fats, 25% protein, carbs and fruits.”

But the sportsman’s overall nutrition goal is centred on achieving desired results through balanced eating. “Basically my aim is to achieve optimal health,” he says. “Getting rid of body fat and turning it into muscle.” 

Another aim is to further boost his profile locally and in the region. Since August of last year he’s being sponsored by Creation Foods Limited. “I also want to get the attention of the JAAA and the JOA to form a race-walking committee, because the sport in Jamaica has the potential to get much bigger,” he argues. “There are a few of us who compete, and now we just need the government and corporate support.” 

>> How to Race-Walk: Allen breaks it down for beginners 
“To start out, go at a comfortable pace. Not too fast. Race-walking is very technical and can take a toll on the body without proper technique. Some people develop shin problems. To get the right form and to build up a rhythm, use heel and toe, rotate the hips, and slowly the muscle memory will develop.”

Friday, 14 February 2020

2019 TALLAWAH MUSIC AWARDS: The Complete List of Winners


* “Owna Lane” - Teejay - WINNER

Shenseea feat. Tyga

“Cool It”

Jah Cure feat. Damian Marley

“Not Another Word”
Protoje feat. Lila Iké and Agent Sasco


“You Give Me Hope”


* “You Give Me Hope” - Alaine - WINNER

Jah Cure feat. Damian Marley

“Nah Mad (Ova Nuh Gyal)”
Munga Honourable

“Owna Lane”

“Picture Perfect”
Bugle feat. Jada Kingdom


“So Saucy”
Kemar Highcon


* Rapture - Koffee - WINNER

And Then
Christopher Martin

It All Comes Back to Love
Maxi Priest

Morgan Heritage

More Work to Be Done
Third World

Parts of the Puzzle
Busy Signal

Royal Soldier
Jah Cure


* Koffee - WINNER

Kemar Highcon
Rhoda Isabella


* Jah Cure - WINNER

Christopher Martin
Romain Virgo
Tarrus Riley


* Koffee - WINNER

Jada Kingdom
Lila Iké


* Busy Signal - WINNER

Ding Dong
Munga Honourable


* Spice - WINNER

Macka Diamond


* “Boast Inna God” - Alaine - WINNER

Kevin Downswell

“Never Leave My Side”
Darien McCallum and Ricardo Williams

“Taste and See”
Joanna Walker

“You’re All I Need”
Curtis Rhoden


* Kevin Downswell - WINNER

Jermaine Edwards
Joanna Walker
Rhoda Isabella
Stephen Murphy


* Buju Banton: Long Walk to Freedom - WINNER

Appleton Signature Nights
Rebel Salute
Reggae Sumfest
Tracks & Records Live


* “Dutty Man” - Romain Virgo - WINNER


Kevin Downswell

“Wake Up”

“Young Girl”


* “Streets Nuh Right” - Shenseea - WINNER

“Sometime Love”

“Sexy Badness”

Althea Hewitt

“What Kind of World”
Marcia Griffiths


* Rvssian - WINNER

DJ Frass
Mario Dunwell
Romeich Entertainment


* Natel - WINNER

Al Third
Althea Hewitt
Craigy T
Nicky B


* “Olympe Rosé Medley” - Dexta Daps, Ding Dong, Christopher Martin, Bibi Gardner and Munga Honourable - WINNER

Shenseea feat. Tyga

Christopher Martin and Romain Virgo

“I’m Alright”
Maxi Priest feat. Shaggy

“Na Na Na”
Third World feat. Chronixx

“That’s Not True”
Skip Marley feat. Damian Marley

Govana feat. Tarrus Riley


* “Not Another Word” - Protoje feat. Lila Iké and Agent Sasco - WINNER

“Beach and Country”
Morgan Heritage

“Love and Reggae”
Collie Budz

“Life Is a Poker Game”

“Picture Perfect”
Bugle feat. Jada Kingdom


“Reggae Music”
Kabaka Pyramid


* “Any Weather” - Vybz Kartel - WINNER


“Big Baller (Benzema)”

“Cool It”


Masicka feat. Dexta Daps

“Nah Mad (Ova Nuh Gyal)”
Munga Honourable

LIFE & STYLE: Romain & Elizabeth welcome twins + Tajay Gayle joins the PUMA family + Download the Reggae Month 2020 app

>> CELEBRITY: While Usain Bolt is still doing his happy dance amidst congratulations over news that he and lady love Kasi Bennett are expectant parents for the first time, Romain Virgo has been basking in the glow of first-time fatherhood. The reggae-soul crooner and wifey, Elizabeth, recently welcomed an extra-special bundle of joy – twins! “There’s no greater gift that anyone could give me on this my 30th birthday,” Virgo shared with his 300,000+ Instagram followers, before going on to thank his wife and God for the wonderful blessing. Meantime, congratulatory responses came from dozens of fans and reggae-industry colleagues, including Jesse Royal, Kemar Highcon and Konshens

>> SPORTS: World champion and Sportsman of the Year Tajay Gayle is the newest member of the PUMA family. The 23-year-old star sports a trio of cool athleisure-inspired looks in a new promo spot for the sportswear giants, who have signed him to a lucrative multi-year contract. “I’m so honoured and happy to join the PUMA family,” Gayle says. “I’ve been working hard since I was a kid to accomplish my objectives, and this is definitely one of them.” 

>> TECH: Jamaicans at home and abroad can keep up with all the happenings for Reggae Month 2020 by downloading the Reggae Month Jamaica app. Commissioned by the Reggae Month secretariat, the app is available via Android and iOS devices. “It will help people keep up on all that is happening – the many events, locations, times, dates, etc.,plus news and information surrounding the celebration, including accommodation,” says culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange. “Visitors to the island will find it particularly useful, as it is a one-stop shop for Reggae Month.”