Sun | Mar 24, 2019

Two stalwarts of JMTC honoured at concert

Published:Friday | February 8, 2019 | 9:49 AM
Peter Haley with Deanne Allgrove (left) and Jodi HoLung at his 2015 farewell event.
Peter Haley with Deanne Allgrove (left) and Jodi HoLung at his 2015 farewell event.

The highlight of Sunday’s concert by the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC) at the Alhambra Inn was in the honouring of two of the company’s stalwarts – Peter Haley and David Reid. Haley died recently, and Reid will celebrate his 90th birthday later this year.

A multitalented theatre practitioner, Haley was called a “legendary director” by fellow JMTC member David Tulloch in a tribute to his “personal friend”. Danielle Stiebel, the chair of the Jamaica Junior Theatre (JJT), the junior affiliate of the JMTC, also has high praise for Haley.

In email correspondence with me, the attorney-at-law lauded Haley’s “charm, wit and tough exterior, which easily melted away with his compassionate and gentle disposition and made him a favourite amongst his JJT thespians”.

She continued, “This English-born native loved Jamaica and delayed his return to the UK on multiple occasions. We had three farewell parties for him! He never wanted to leave and served as our director until he finally returned to be with his family in 2015.”

Haley joined the JMTC in 1962, became the JJT’s perennial director after his 1989 debut productionThe Wizard of Oz and also took on the task of set designer for five of the company’s musicals. He was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for his role as Ol’ Cap’n Cotchipee inPurlie in 2004.

In a 2010 production of George Bernard Shaw’sPygmalion by the Edna Manley College’s School of Drama, he was nominated as Best Actor for his role as Professor Higgins. He was thrice nominated as Best Director, and two of the shows he directed –The Lion King (1999) andBubbling Brown Sugar (2001) – won Best Production awards. He was inducted into the JMTC ‘s Hall of Fame in 1996.

The JMTC will dedicate the closing night of the JTC’s current musical,Annie, to Haley.

JMTC member John McFarlane paid tribute to the ‘birthday boy’ Reid. Praising Reid’s work as a diplomat, entrepreneur, and performer, McFarlane revealed that it was Reid who made the vocal recording of the national anthem in 1962 to assist the selection committee in making a decision.

Reid, who has probably sung with all the major choral groups in Jamaica, began performing at the age of 11 at the Ward Theatre, McFarlane said. He then joined the other performers of the evening in serenading Reid with My Way, the Paul Anka song that Frank Sinatra popularised in 1969.

Before and after the tribute, Reid himself entertained the appreciative audience in song – some solos, some accompanied by other singers. His youthful voice belied his age, and that, together with his professional delivery of the songs, must have been inspirational to the younger singers. The three – Stephanie Hazle, Karla Tulloch, and Andre Shepherd – almost certainly would have been hoping that they could be singing as well when they turn 90. They are already good and received enthusiastic applause as they sangThe First Time Ever I Saw Your Face; I Don’t Know How to Love Him;Rise Up,At Last;Suddenly, andEverything I Own, respectively.

The other two singers on the programme – McFarlane and the producer of the show, Carole Reid – also sang. Their solos, delivered with a lot of feeling and drama, werePortrait of My Love andHello; andI Believe, respectively.

Other items were readings by Tiffanni Robinson of some humorous Easton Lee poems and well-played instrumentals by Joel Douet (guitar) and Joseph Gibson (keyboard). The singers were expertly accompanied on piano by Dr Kamla Hamilton, and the acts were smoothly guided by an informative compère, Jeff Cobham.

The delightful evening ended as it began, with the full ensemble singingLove Changes Everything, the title of the show.