Michael Reckord, Gleaner Writer
The time has come for us to officially declare Christmas week the start of Jamaica's theatre season.
A formal acknowledgement by the Government and recognition in publications by the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), the Jamaican and Caribbean hotel and tourism associations and other bodies tasked with promoting the island could bring in big money. This would be not only to the benefit of theatres' box offices, but also to our economy generally.
Naming something gives it power.
It couldn't really have been done before. True, the Little Theatre Movement (LTM) has been opening their annual pantomime on December 26 since 1941. And true, one by one, other producers have been following suit with that opening date.
But one production does not a season make. Not even two or three. However, when seven productions - six brand-new works and one remount - open on or around Boxing Day, we have got to use 'season' for the phenomenon.
So what's on for the season?
RBT Films & Productions, now back at the Green Gables Theatre on Cargill Avenue, steals a march on the competition by opening a show on Christmas Day. I believe that's a first in Jamaica.
The production is Clash, a dramatic comedy written by David Tulloch and directed by Paul O. Beale. Tulloch is also the set designer, composer and musical director. It's about the dancehall music business in Jamaica and one man's struggles to make it as an artiste manager. He encounters, says the writer, "envy, greed, betrayal and even a father standing in the way of true love".
The cast comprises Keith 'Shebada' Ramsay, Volier Johnson, Garfield Reid, Junior Williams, Taunia Flowers, Sherene Davis and newcomers Shana Wilson and Renae Wilson.
Opening on Boxing Day as usual at the Little Theatre, the LTM Pantomime, The Golden Macca Fat, is a musical with book by Barbara Gloudon and music by Grub Cooper. Pierre Lemaire occupies the pantomime director's seat for the first time.
The story is set in the district of Macca Fat Mountain and concerns the efforts of a recently arrived investor, Charlie Prosperity Hardtime, to get hold of the mysterious, magical Golden Macca Fat hidden somewhere in the area. Legend has it that as long as the fruit is safe, the community will prosper.
Other characters include the Minister of Everything, Member of Parliament (MP) for Maccafat Mountain; her daughter Poinsettia, an environmentalist; Hardtime's assistants Hell and Powderhouse, and Pattoo and the Mosquito Chorale.
Choreography is by Patrick Earle, set design by Michael Lorde, costume design by Anya Gloudon and lighting design by Michael 'Rufus' McDonald.
Another of the five plays opening on December 26 is DMH Productions' To The Finish by Dahlia Harris who, along with Suzanne Beadle, also directs. It's on at the Pantry Playhouse in New Kingston and stars Christopher McFarlane, Nadean Rawlins, Jerry Benzwick, Carl Samuels and Julene Robinson.
Robinson plays Victoria Speid, a talented sprinter from rural Jamaica who has been catapulted to national fame. She faces the temptation to enhance her natural ability with drugs.
The Jambiz production opening Boxing Day at Centerstage, New Kingston, is If There's a Will, There's a Wife by Patrick Brown. He and Trevor Nairne are directing the play and designing the set, while Nairne designs the costumes.
In the cast are Glen Campbell, Camille Davis, Sharee McDonald Russell, Sakina Deer and Courtney Wilson.
The story tells of a yam farmer (Campbell) who learns that a distant uncle has died and left him a fortune. But there's a proviso - he must get married if he's to get the money. A lawyer (McDonald-Russell) and the office maid (Davis) want the position of wife. Deer, as the housekeeper, also has designs on the farmer. Wilson plays the office attendant's boyfriend, who is also the former yard boy of the deceased.
The prolific Tulloch has a second show on stage for the season, again at The Green Gables Theatre. It is Jamaica Sweet, a musical revue produced by Tulloch's Probemaster Entertainment and RBT Films & Productions. It also opens on Boxing Day.
Members of the singing/dancing/acting cast are Deon Silvera, Terri Salmon, Rosie Murray, Michael 'Stringbean' Nicholson, Mark 'Bones' Martins, Akeem Mignott and Rushae Watson. Surely overextending himself, the playwright has also taken on the roles of director, lighting designer, composer and musical director. Maria Hitchins is the choreographer.
The fifth December 26 staging is a remount of OSME's production of Oliver Samuels' Embassy Saga. It had a brief run at The Theatre Place earlier this year, went abroad on tour and returns to the same venue with the cast intact. Douglas Prout directed Samuels, Audrey Reid, Dennis Titus and Lakeisha Ellison in the comedy, which got good reviews here.
The seventh play to open next week (on December 27 at Little Little Theatre) is Basil Dawkins' 'dramedy' My God Don't Wear Wear Pajamas. Directed by Prout, it stars Hilary Nicholson, Donald 'Iceman' Anderson, Zandriann Maye, Jean-Paul Menou, Ruth HoShing and Christopher Hutchinson.
The story is about a young Jamaican who is undergoing a publicly humiliating marital separation at the time his American-based father dies, leaving a substantial estate to be divided between his American widow and his Jamaican son. Problems arise when the widow's son tries to cheat his newfound Jamaican stepbrother out of his inheritance and the Jamaican has difficulty securing a visa to the USA.