Entertainment

The Messiah, visually dramatic

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, October 02, 2012    

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LIKE Handel's celebrated work, The Messiah by Father Richard Ho Lung and Friends tracks the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

The colour, drama, movement, and music used to string the stories together makes Ho Lung's The Messiah well worth the watch.

It was a near-packed National Arena in St Andrew which turned out on opening night and judging by the applause and comments, it

was enjoyable.

Ho Lung introduces video mapping technology to this year's musical. This replaces the use of painted backdrops with projected video images.

This certainly lifts the production value of the work, reaching the often-jaded millennium babies who can relate easier.

The 'no-room' scene, the star in the East, Jesus on the rough seas, and the last supper in the upper room

are brought to reality thanks to this technology.

Director Greg Thames, his cast and crew do not solely rely on technology to ensure the success of the production. A solid script, sound acting, and great voices, work in tandem to anchor The Messiah.

Credit must go to lead actor Wynton Williams who not only plays Christ, but has a hand in the production's music and lyrics.

Williams is a regular collaborator with Father Ho Lung on his productions. Over the years, while the quality of his voice has never been questioned, his acting has definitely showed marked improvement. A range of emotions -- anger to love -- coupled with the crucifixion's horrors, are realistically portrayed by Williams.

There are great moments which result in spontaneous applause from the audience. These include the temptation of Christ, which is visually dramatic, including a live flame thrower.

Director Thames includes real goats and chickens in the scene when Jesus chases the money-making Pharisees from the temple -- a welcomed comedic moment in the otherwise heavy drama.

The cast delivers musically as The Messiah is complete with a number of tracks. The disciple's Wherever You Go, Jesus and God The Father's My Son, My Son and Mary's Lament are the stuff of which great musical theatre is made. They serve to convey the story, heighten drama and entertain.

The only negative would be the graphic nature of some scenes -- the murder of Jewish male babies as commanded by King Herod, the beheading of John the Baptist, and of course, the crucifixion.

The realistic passion is even brought closer as the director uses the floor of the venue to represent the stations of the cross. A cross-bearing, crown of thorns-wearing, whipped and stripped Williams weaves his way through the audience dripping with 'blood'.

On a lighter note, as is customary, Ho Lung makes his appearance and his attempts at dancing never fail to ignite the audience.

The Messiah, Ho Lung's 41st annual production, continues this weekend at the National Arena.

All proceeds go to the work of the Missionaries of the Poor.

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