Fri | Aug 18, 2017

For the Reckord | Musicals to the ears, eyes

Published:Friday | February 3, 2017 | 2:00 AMMichael Reckord
Runkus (Jahmali Rhoden) waters the orchids in 'The Upsies and de Downzies Dem'.
Playwright and producer of the LTM pantomime, Barbara Gloudon, thanks the audience at the end of the show on Sunday at the Little Theatre, Tom Redcam Avenue, St Andrew.
The Good Witch of the North (Jada Ferguson, left) welcomes Dorothy (Shea Thompson) to her kingdom in 'The Wiz', currently playing at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, UWI, Mona.
The Wiz (Andrew Bailey) stands in front of a machine.
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Lovers of musicals should enjoy the two lively, colourful productions on stage this weekend. The Jamaica Junior Theatre's The Wiz is at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts (PSCCA), UWI, Mona, and the Little Theatre Movement's 2016-17 pantomime, The Upsies and De Downzies Dem, is at The Little Theatre, Tom Redcam Avenue, St Andrew.

The JJT production features good work by musical director Hugh Douse and music arranger and producer AndrÈ Dennis. Their efforts, supported by the strong singing talents of the male and female leads, Andrew Bailey (The Wiz) and Shea Thompson (Dorothy), help make the music enjoyable.

My favourite songs are Ease on Down The Road, sung as Dorothy and her friends travel to down the Yellow Brick Road; Slide Some Oil to Me, a plea by the Tin Man (Kodi-Anne Brown) for oil for his joints; No Bad News, sung by the wicked witch Evillene (Kimmberley Samuels); and Believe in Yourself, sung by The Wiz and good witch, Glinda (Destinee Condison).

The lighting, which constantly changes to reflect time, setting, atmosphere and emotion, was designed by the PSCCA's resident technical director Nadia Roxburgh. The varied costumes - made for humans, plants, objects and (weird) creatures - were designed by Carolyn Chin Yee and Monique Greaves. And the easily shifted, evocative set was designed by the most popular set designer in town, Michael Lorde.

He also designed the set, a more complex and substantial one, for the pantomime. It depicts the luxurious mansion owned by the Upsies - the Ginneral (Kevin Halstead), Lady Upsie (Nicole Taylor) and their sons, Miguel (Ricardo Campbell) and Diego (Donovan Stewart) - and the rural community Ribba to De Bank, where the Downzies reside.

Lorde's pantomime sets are always lovely to look at (and this year is no exception). They are generally surpassed in attractiveness only by Anya Gloudon-Nelson's costumes and she again edges him out this year. Michael 'Rufus' McDonald's lighting doesn't have the weakness that Roxburgh's has: she tends to keep the light so low that the actors' faces are often in the shadows and their expressions indiscernible. Though McDonald's lighting is less subtle, at least actors' faces (and bodies) are well lit.

Jamaican audiences will certainly find the Jamaican music of the pantomime easier to relate to than that of The Wiz. For a start, while the latter's cast performs to recorded music, the pantomime has a live band playing in front of the audience. The witty lyrics are by the well-known Barbara Gloudon and the bouncy music by Jermaine Gordon and Calvin Cameron with "contributions", states the programme, from Grub Cooper, composer of numerous past pantomimes. Most of them were written by Gloudon, author of the current pantomime.