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Costumes, characters at Motown Plus

JAVAA stages engaging impersonation concert

Published:Sunday | July 12, 2015 | 12:00 AMMarcia Rowe
From left: Pam Hall, Patricia Edwards and Gem Myers as The Sweet Inspirations.
Charmaine Limonius as Dolly Parton.
Natty Baldhead performing as The Temptations.
Alex Welcome as Luther Vandross.

IT WAS a fine show featuring impersonations of some Motown greats and other vocal standouts at the idyllic Countryside Club, Courtney Walsh Drive, on Saturday night. Adorned in glittering costumes and bold wigs, the performers rendered favourite soul and rhythm and blues songs. Such was the accuracy of the vocalists and musicians, mainly members of the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates (JAVAA), that it compensated for their familiar faces and strong Jamaican accents.

The occasion was the staging of JAVAA Relives Motown Plus: 1980, which began 12 years ago as a "fun thing that the association tried and it worked", said chairman Frankie Campbell. The show is also a major fundraiser for the association, and, according to Campbell, takes months to prepare. It has been staged in at least three venues, including the present one. Saturday's event showed no ill effects from the changes.

There was ample evidence of research by the performers. In the case of Elaine Peart, who performed as Della Reece because she loves her songs and lyrics, she was quite detailed in costuming herself to look the part. This included wearing a streak of grey in her hair as the iconic singer did during her 80s.

Altogether, it resulted in a concert that was informative, entertaining and refreshingly different. And surprisingly, in spite of the event going over the midnight hour, the patrons remained steadfast to the last act. Among those who stayed to the end were Dorothy Finlayson and Cynthia Carvalho, who thought the show was fantastic.

"It was worth more than the money," said Carvalho. Finlayson, a repeat patron of the event, said, "I have been here before and this is exceptional. I would encourage other persons to come."

JAVAA Relives Motown Plus: 1980 saw top performances from the likes of Bagga Case as Chuck Jackson, Peart as Reece, Don Cunningham as Fats Domino, Boris Gardner as Johnny Ace, Keisha Patterson as Shirley Bassey, Pam Hall, Patricia Edwards and Gem Myers as The Sweet Inspiration and Charmaine Limonius as Dolly Parton.

Bagga Case ended the first segment with renditions of Any Day Now, My Willow Tree and Tell Him I'm Not Home, engaging the audience throughout. Before him, Peart had already got the audience going with Not One Minute More in her raspy voice. Cunningham, who physically looked his character, Fats Domino, did Be My Guest and ended his set with Blueberry Hill.

After an approximately 15-minute break, during which there was a strong dose of recorded reggae music, the Motown Plus concert resumed. Boris Gardiner, while not costumed to look like his character, captured Ace's melancholy in songs like The Clock and Forever My Darling. Patterson, on the other hand, was sassy in her rendition of Bassey's jazz selections Diamonds are Forever and the perky and teasingly delivered Big Spender.

Before Natty Baldhead in their role as The Temptations closed a show that was "de-Kartelised" and "Alkaline free", according to MC Don Cornelious (Baldwin Hardware), The Sweet Inspirations graced the stage. Attired to look the part, the three were flawless. A technical hiccup during their delivery of To Love Somebody was little deterrent to an overall wonderful performance.

The evening belonged to Charmaine Limonius, not because of her attire or singing of Dolly Parton's popular songs like Nine To Five, Jolene (some female members of the audience voicing their agreement with the lyrics) and I Will Always Love You, but because of her accent. Limonius was consistent in tone and word choice from the beginning to the end of her set.

Others making the programme were Robbie Robinson as Lionel Ritchie, Andrew Cassanovea as Eddie Kendricks, Deh Deh as Jerry Butler, Jr Sinclair as Eddie Floyd, Yellow Rose as Dorothy Moore and Alex Welcome as Luther Vandross. They were all backed by The Barkays Band (Fab 5), the musicians wearing big afros and dressed in full black.