‘Jamaica’ at Harlem Repertory Theatre (Photo: Michael Blase)
The Harlem Repertory Theatre, under the direction of its Founding Artistic Director Keith Lee Grant, has announced that it will present Jamaica, Yip Harburg and Fred Saidy’s powerful story about a Jamaican woman’s dream of moving to New York City, July 29 – March 24 at The Tato Laviera Theatre (240 East 123rd Street). The production is one of five Harburg works that the HRT and Mr. Grant will produce in the next four years.
Jamaica takes its audience on a journey to Pigeon Island off the coast of Jamaica, following an ambitious island girl named Savannah who dreams of finding true love and escaping to New York City. The production examines how an isolated island community navigates the perils of love, family and relationships while they confront the increasing pressures of American commercialism, class struggles and racism.
The book of Harlem Repertory’s production of Jamaica has been adapted by Art Perlman who also adapted the Broadway script for the critically acclaimed and Tony Nominated recent revival of Finian’s Rainbow. In addition to Perlman’s fresh, new perspective, Jamaica will be staged environmentally with the actors, singers and dancers performing throughout the performance space only inches away from the audience. Likewise, Edward Corcino has designed colorful, entertaining, and thought-provoking animations, while award-winning puppet designer, Daniel Fergus Tamulonis, has managed to sneak in some surprising puppets for the production.
The musical Jamaica was written by Harburg when he was a victim of MarCarthy’s Hollywood Blacklists. Since he couldn’t find work in Hollywood, Harburg focused his talents on the Broadway stage. In the current contentious political environment
Jamaica’s powerful political themes (racism, classism, and capitalism) resonate even more today than they did in 1959 when this groundbreaking and mostly forgotten musical theater treasure opened on Broadway.
The Harlem Repertory Theatre and Mr. Grant have embarked on a plan to produce five of Yip Harburg’s musical theatre works in four years: The Wizard of Oz is currently playing at the HRT, Jamaica opens in July 2017, Finian’s Rainbow/Flahooley will open in 2018 and Bloomer Girl will join the repertory in 2019.