Robyn Miller, Sunday Gleaner Writer
When the cast of To Kenya with Love took to the stage on Saturday, June 30, at The Salvation Army School for the Blind auditorium in their benefit performance for the Annie Dawson Children's Home, many in the audience had never heard of the little-known production.
But the young and, for the most part, inexperienced all-female cast of four sprang a few surprises, serving up some soul-stirring singing and all-round good performances in a gripping and powerful musical drama.
Faced with the stark reality that she will never be able to fulfil her promise to always be there for her daughter, Kenya (played by the charming Kaitlyn Facey), Sierra (Sheena Gordon) wrestles with the dark, grim secret that no mother wants to ever have to tell her young child - she is dying of AIDS, the deadly disease that killed Kenya's father.
Worried about how the news will affect her daughter, a perplexed Sierra asks "How can I tell my daughter? Kenya made me promise her," as R. Kelly's I Need An Angel rang out in the auditorium.
Realising that her days are numbered, anxiety sets in and the mother tries to impart as many life lessons to the pubescent Kenya, including an overzealous attempt to teach her to make bread.
"Did I just make her go without teaching her to make bread," she engaged the audience in one of the rare funny scenes and what turned out to be the most convincing impersonation of the African accent among the cast.
fear and panic
As fear and panic of her imminent mortality grips the single mother, a troubled Sierra turns to her friend Inesha for help.
Played by La Tania-Johnelle Hall, Sierra finds the support she needs to restore her faith in God, much in the same way teenager, Asia (Michaela Black), does for the worried Kenya.
Inesha captivated the audience with a consoling and powerful rendition of This Too Shall Pass which Sierra followed up with I Look to You and later a beautiful duet, I Still Have Joy, with her friend.
And even as she is prepared for the inevitable, with death comes an inconsolable Kenya.
A profound message about faith, love and friendship, To Kenya With Love offers good, wholesome family entertainment, though there are weaknesses in the production.
It was written, directed and produced by Almarie Taylor under her Rolyata Productions company. Benefit performances can be booked at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of the privately-operated Annie Dawson Children's Home, Ivaline Nickie, a social worker for well over 30 years, told The Sunday Gleaner that the home is in response to an "overwhelming need to protect the nation's children". Located in Havendale, the home will cater for girls ages four to 12 including those living with HIV. For futher information or to assist with the programme, persons may contact 925-8884, 572-8672 or 836-8054.