THE HARDER THEY COME – OPENING NIGHT BENEFITS THE JAMAICAN CHILDREN’S HEART FUND
By M. Peggy Quattro
Photos by Lynn Dearing
The Jamaican Children’s Heart Fund (JCHF) successfully benefited from the opening night performance of the smash hit musical, The Harder They Come, based on Perry Henzell’s legendary 1972 movie starring Jimmy Cliff. The South Florida-based JCHF sold hundreds of tickets for the Sat., August 29, 2009, performance at the beautiful Ziff Ballet Opera House, inside Arsht Performing Arts Centre, Miami, FL, and a portion of the ticket price went to this worthy cause.
For the hundreds of Jamaicans, Americans, and international patrons in attendance, the cast of The Harder They Come sang and danced their way into the hearts of the cheerful crowd. Live music was provided by an outstanding band of live musicians cleverly positioned as part of the stage set. Together with the entire cast, they performed popular songs from the original movie that have become world-famous anthems include “Many Rivers To Cross,” “You Can Get It If You Really Want,” “Pressure Drop,” “Sweet and Dandy,” and “Sitting in Limbo.” The audience was brought to their feet to sing along when the cast came on stage to end the show with a rousing version of “The Harder They Come.”
Rolan Bell, who portrayed Ivan Martin, the aspiring singer who comes to Kingston to be a reggae star and ends up its most celebrated outlaw, delivered an outstanding and heartfelt performance. As for taking on such a celebrated character that Jimmy Cliff brought to the world, Rolan said “It’s always very flattering to be seen in that kind of light…to take on a role that is so powerful, to portray a character that so many people love. I’m just very happy it’s me playing it.” Equally commanding was the play’s female lead, Joanna Francis, who played Ivan’s girl friend, Elsa. Her powerful voice was filled with emotion and passion that touched the Miami audience, as well as audiences in London and Toronto. A special thanks to Producer Jan Ryan, Director Kerry Michael, and Jamaica-born choreographer Jackie Guy for bringing this legendary film to life on the musical stage.
Mrs. Gwendolyn Grant, Executive Director of the JCHF, was joined at the pre-performance reception by Dr. and Mrs. Perryman, lead surgeon for the JCHF; Donnie Dawson, Deputy Director of Tourism USA; Marcia Bullock, Regional Director – Groups and Conventions; Jamaica Consul General Sandra Grant Griffin. Also in attendance for the premiere were Winston Stoner, original actor in the film role of Police Commissioner Pierre; writer Perry Henzell’s wife Sally and son Jason; and JCHF supporters Oliver Jobson, Carolyn Soutar, Christopher, Diana and Laura Marley, and several members of the local media and press.
The JCHF facilitates open-heart surgery for poor, needy, and indigent children in Jamaica through the kind and generous work of volunteer surgeons, nurses, specialists, and other medical personnel of Florida’s Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital who travel to Jamaica once or twice per year to perform such surgeries. In addition to benefiting the JCHF, proceeds from the ticket sales will financially enable a top performing boy and girl from a Jamaican children’s home to be able to attend high school in the new academic year.
Assisting the JCHF to promote and endorse this opening night fund-raiser was American Airlines, The Jamaica Tourist Board, ReggaeReport.com, Princess PM Productions, Breakaway Moments, Grace Kennedy & Co. Ltd, Western Union, South Florida Caribbean News, CARIBCAST, Mayberry Investments, Island Car Rental, and Trilogy Productions.