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JMTC’s Easter concert a success, ‘No Good Deed’ unconventional

Published:Friday | April 12, 2019 | 12:09 AMMichael Reckord/Gleaner Writer
A puzzled Widgina (Ramone Deer).
A puzzled Widgina (Ramone Deer).

The Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC) mounted their Easter concert last Sunday – a whole two weeks early. Perhaps not unrelated to the premature staging, there were challenges, but as the famous show biz saying goes, “The show must go on.”

And it did go on, quite successfully in the eyes of the audience, judging by the frequent applause and favourable remarks throughout and at the end of the show. Both Dr Lucette Cargill, chair of the concert series, and the concert’s producer, Christine MacDonald-Nevers, note that the first major challenge was that the piano used by the accompanist, Ann Trouth, had not been tuned before the show, as it usually was. Nevertheless, the choir sang sufficiently well to earn congratulations from both at the end.

The second was psychological. Many of the JMTC members, including MacDonald-Nevers, are also members of the Jamaican Folk Singers, which had lost a founding member, Joyce Meeks, just days earlier. In addition to grieving, the members had to be preparing for their participation in the thanksgiving service to be held tomorrow at the Temple of Light Centre for Spiritual Living.

Two noteworthy qualities of the concert were the power and the texture of the singing by the 16-member choir. When called for, the volume of the sound delivered might have come from a group twice the size, and many songs had called for four-part harmony.

I was therefore surprised when one chorister, Ozou’ne Sundalyah, said to me, “I have to be carrying the tenor line. I’m the only tenor in the group.” Variety also came in different ways, through the songs performed. The 22 items were composed by 17 choreographers, from classical to contemporary. A couple of cheerful spirituals – Shall We Gather at the River and Every Time I Feel the Spirit – were mixed in with more solemn sacred songs, like Handel’s Art Thou Troubled, O Lord, Correct Me, and Haydn’s When I Think Upon the Goodness.

There were five solo pieces (by Grace Smith, Marilyn Brice-MacDonald, Yvonne Miller, Debbie Campbell and MacDonald-Nevers), one by a quintet, and one in which the audience joined the choir. Two compositions by Jamaican Noel Dexter were put in the privileged spots of being the penultimate and the final songs of the programme. The songs were The Right Hand of God and O Praise Ye The Lord.

No Good Deed FAIRY-TALE SETTINGS

The other show I attended over the weekend was No Good Deed Goes Unpunished at the Edna Manley College’s School of Drama. It’s a play for children, and in the main, it’s about fairy-tale characters in fairy-tale settings. Children who read fairy tales (are there any who do in this online age?) will recognise some of the characters: Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Rumpelstilskin, and Hansel and Gretel.

But playwright Cheryl Hadley treats her characters in a non-traditional way. For one, she mixes those named, and others, into one story, and gives the whole tale a modern feel. She is aided and abetted by director Pierre Lemaire, who puts the production in the frame of a class of modern Jamaican students doing research on fairy tales in a children’s library.

A video projected on a back screen shows the students getting instructions from their teacher and going into the library. The frame has a missing side, however, for the play does not return to the classroom in the end.

There is a frame within Lemaire’s frame – the playwright’s frame – which does eventually close. The character Widgina (Torri-Ann King) rushes on stage, pursued by a mob, and after a young man (Alexander Williams) helps her evade the people, we learn that she was being chased for having done what she considered a good deed.

Towards the end of the play, after watching two young Widginas (played by Ramone Deer and Latoi Griffith) in a series of adventures involving the characters listed earlier, we learn what the good deed was.

The production is at its most exciting when the stage is filled with characters and a lot is happening. Too often, though, just a few are on the huge stage, and because the play is more talk than activity, the few tend to get lost in the vastness.

Happily, Franklyn ‘Chappy’ St Juste’s shadow-filled lighting helps to make the characters look more interesting than their own stories do, but speeding up the pace of the play would also help. The production continues tonight and closes on Sunday