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Jamaican actor wows Broadway - Wins solo festival award

Published:Tuesday | November 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Sebastien Heins
Actor Sebastien Heins (third left) joins in a photo at an after party at Chez Josephine near Times Square. From left are: Stephen C. Byrd, currently the only African-American producer of Broadway plays with a recently staged revival of 'A Streetcar Named Desire', Ava Joy Gill Mignott, former Miss Jamaica and Miss World runner-up, and husband, New York marketing executive Noel Mignott. - Photo by Dave Rodney

Dave Rodney, Contributor

Sebastien Heins is a young Jamaican actor who got his first break several years ago as a child star playing 'Simba' in the Toronto production of the musical The Lion King, one of the most successful theatrical productions of all time.

Heins, now 23, is currently in New York City and, on Wednesday night, he wowed a large audience on Broadway with a sizzling one-man show called Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera, written and performed by him and directed by Adam Lazarus.

Heins' performance forms part of New York City's third annual United Solo Festival, a six-week multicultural theatrical event that presents one-person performances in the heart of the city's theatre district.

This festival describes itself as the largest of its kind in the world.

To top things off, Heins then went on to win an award for Best Emerging Artiste at the festival on Sunday night.

With non-stop, high-energy dancing, miming, rapping, and singing, Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera tells a compelling story in rhyme about the unlikely journey of two brothers who were deeply immersed in hip hop and R&B music, about how they were torn from each other and the circumstances that brought them back together again.

The entire show is written in rhyme with cleverly crafted lyrics utilising the genres of hip hop and R & B as well as elements of reggae and dancehall.

The one-hour production presents like a long music video spanning 60 years, taking the audience from the present to the 1970s, then fast forwarding 30 years into the future.

Heins, of course, plays several roles and is able to successfully pull this off by drawing on all the skills acquired at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal where he studied.

Immensely helpful, too, is his impeccable dexterity at changing voices.

Heins is the son of a Jamaican mother, Shella Roye Heins from Savanna-la-Mar, and a German father.

The play was inspired by Sebastien's two cousins in Jamaica and, as the saga unfolds, it feels very much like a love letter to his Jamaican roots. Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera is seasoned with many warm-hearted references to Jamaica. The production is an uncompromisingly bold and supremely entertaining excursion into the often perilous realm of one-man shows.

Among those attending were hot-shot Broadway producer Stephen Byrd, actors Charmaine Lord, Susan Brady, Colin Mercer, Noah Reid and Taylor Murphy. Also enjoying the performance were marketing executive Noel Mignott; his wife Ava Joy Gill, former Miss Jamaica and Miss World runner-up; travel specialist Sylvia Delvaille Jones, and Nancy Burke, visiting from Jamaica.

An after-party was held in Sebastien Heins' honour at the nearby Chez Josephine on West 42nd Street.