For the Reckord | Veteran marshals young voices at Alhambra
"The best thing I have ever done was to found the Jamaica Junior Theatre (JJT)," Douglas Bennett told me.
The declaration came as, at 87 years old, he looked down the corridors of his 35 years as chairman of the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC) - the 'mother' of the JJT - past his many other accomplishments and around people he had helped along the way.
We were at the Alhambra Inn on Sunday, March 5, and he was about to welcome the audience to a JMTC concert there. It should have been done by the producer, David Tulloch, but he had called in sick.
Perhaps because of Tulloch's illness, the show turned out to be quite lacklustre in terms of its production. Patrons would have compared it with the previous month's concert, which had live accompaniment (two pianists and a band), a poetry reader, a dancer and an emcee.
The March show was a stripped-down affair, with the performers singing to recorded music coming from a machine operated in full view of the audience. The singers themselves were not up to the standard of the February batch. All of those were experienced professionals specially chosen for the occasion, a tribute to the late Cecil Cooper, a former JMTC member.
LOADS OF SINGING TALENT
Although the March concert was pretty much a young people's evening, the singers displayed loads of talent. Opening the concert with O Mio Babbino Caro was Kodi-Anne Brown, a current member of the JJT. She was one of the leads in the company's recently concluded musical The Wiz at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts (PSCCA), UWI, Mona. In the second half, she sang Think of Me from the Broadway hit The Phantom of the Opera.
A past JJT member, Kristina Carty, was next with Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid. She later returned with Colour of the Wind. The dramatic singing of both young women was testament to their theatrical training.
Other singers were Samantha Brevett, Kara Newland, Lisa Spence and Karla Tulloch.
Some had been trained by Bennett, musical director for all but the last two or three of the JJT musicals mounted at the PSCCA and producer of all the JJT's seasonal concerts to date. He will also produce its next concert on June 4, 24 years to the month since he founded the company.