Jordane Delahaye, Gleaner Writer
The Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts is playing host to the cultural sensation, Lift Up Jamaica.
The Jamaica 50-endorsed production, a collaboration between Ashe and Dance Theatre Xaymaca, tackles the underlying prejudices brought on by social stratification in a riveting saga of uptown-downtown.
Lift Up Jamaica centres on a disjointed community, inhabited by two distinct group of people who are seemingly at opposite poles of the strata pole.
Two particularly strong-willed women, Monica (played by the talented Petrina Williams) and Viviene (played by Digicel Star winner Sharona Jonas) learn to put their differences aside and work together for the benefit of the community with the help of their newly elected leader, Leachim (played by Ifidel Williams).
The musical started with a banging kette drum number that was accompanied by a series of high kicks, jumps and fast-paced dance moves that had hearts palpitating both in the audience and, surely, on stage.
From then on, scene after scene, the audience was treated to a range of dance routines that displayed structural finesse, highlighting the incredible talent on show.
The music was equally spellbinding as the lead characters demonstrated impressive vocal prowess and the flawless harmonies in the group performances brought forth the goosebumps.
There were points in the musical where the emotive movements, combined with the musical expressions, would incite some aesthetic emotion in someone with little or no aesthetic sensibility.
The night's show-stealer was Shayne Powell, who played the role of the insufferable and ever-present, Tommy. Tommy's witty one-liners appeared to be laughing gas for the audience, but Powell really showed off his acting chops when, in one scene, he seamlessly transitioned between several distinct characters, all while sitting on a chair. He made the feat look like a walk in the park.
To stand out among such an incredibly talented cast is commendable.
Special mention should also be made of the musicians who kept up with the performers throughout the night without missing a beat.
Ashe's executive director, Conroy Wilson, revealed that funding for the production was not overwhelming, although he admitted that they started seeking funding a little late.
Wilson went on to express that theatre or the creative arts on a whole are generally not heavily funded in Jamaica and often, as with this production, expenses outweigh the available funds.
Wilson revealed that the vision for the production is to promote Jamaican culture.
The first staging of Lift Up Jamaica was taken to London and the United States with the help of the Victoria Mutual Building Society and was very well received, according to Wilson.
Lift Up Jamaica is set to continue at the Little Theatre on October 27 with an encore performance the following day.