By Jasminee Sahoye
They have wowed audiences for over four decades, starting back in Jamaica when founder of the Missionaries of the Poor Jamaican-born Catholic priest Fr. Richard Ho Lung teamed up with musicians Mark McLaughlin, Lee Martin and Jonathan Burke to form Fr. Ho Lung and Friends.
They will do so again in Toronto when they stage The Messiah, an epic production on the life of Christ from his birth to his death, resurrection and ascension, at Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts, 36 Greenfield Ave., July 3 to 5.
The group successfully produced a number of hit songs in the 70s and 80s. In the mid 90’s, Prof. Alwyn Bully, Dominican playwright and theatre director, became the group’s talented director. He did The Rock in 1994, an unforgettable production on the life of St. Peter, portrayed exceptionally by John Jones.
It was followed by another award-winning performance, Worship, Ho Lung’s first opera in 1995. By this time, Fr. Ho Lung and Friends had already won the laurel of JAMI awards for best production (David), best original composition (Praise Him) and best musical (Sugar Cain & Worship).
In 1997, the staging of Isaiah drew thousands of viewers at the Little Theatre and just before the culmination of the 20th century, Ho Lung brought back to the stage the remake of the 1997 box-office hit Ruby which ran for six weeks from the Little Theatre to Ward Theatre.
According to a press release, Missionaries of the Poor said, “responding to the church’s call for a new evangelization which seeks to re-propose the Gospel of Christ in new ardor, methods and expressions, it decided to take up this challenge through the captivating power of music and the arts.”
The Messiah, which is written in original Caribbean and Jamaican rhythms, featuring ska, mento, calypso and reggae, is set against biblical times and costumes which beautifully blend in with contemporary movements and dances.
The promoters say the presentation is expected to bring “tears and laughter as the Holy Spirit awakens in a most marvellous way the life of our incarnate God who came to Earth to redeem us from sin and give us eternal life.
“Dance, music, acting – theatre is pivotal for the new evangelization of a new people in this modern day and age where the media and the arts are so powerful a tool in forming their minds and hearts.”
Missionaries of the Poor has missions around the world including, Jamaica, Haiti, India, the Philippines, Africa and the U.S.
For more information, phone 416-828-0223 or 416-302-3881. Tickets can be obtained at www.moptoronto.org.