Jamaica Me Happy! – Falcon Theatre

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Debra Ehrhardt in “Jamaica, Farewell” directed by Joel Zwick at the Falcon Theatre.

The image of Jamaica is often waking up on a tropical beach, white sand and blue waters, the abundance of fresh fruit and fish washed down with coconut water. Though somewhat accurate, this vision is merely a fantasy most of the time. In Jamaica, Farewell Debra Ehrhardt recalls with fondness her childhood memories — growing up on this lush island — but mostly focuses on her intense yearning for her “dream to turn into reality” of emigrating to America, the land of sunshine, promise and gold-paved streets (also, a fantasy!)

She’s not at all conflicted about this dream of leaving Jamaica, symbolized by reggae music and the philosophy, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and eager from an early age to start anew and live the American dream. The audience is with her every step of the way, cheering Debra on, as she sings, dances and laughs her way into our hearts. Although the show is infused with humor throughout, her deep words and angst for a better life and escape from violence and hardship are passionately expressed. The times indeed “were a-changing”: money troubles forced her parents to take Debra out of a private school education and transfer to a public school. Change of any kind is traumatic and can trigger even deeper yearnings of freedom and independence — the bright stars and stripes of the American flag adorning her room were so tempting. Debra became obsessed with the idea of being a “full fledged Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and could recite the song verbatim.

Ehrhardt’s stage presence is mesmerizing; she is a vision so lovely, like her homeland — pure beauty and allure. Her performance and compelling journey is powerful and riveting, captivating the audience from beginning to end. Producer Rita Wilson optioned Jamaica, Farewell, bringing the play to the Falcon stage, with Joel Zwick directing. Ms. Ehrhardt’s wildest dreams have indeed become reality, and she is currently adapting the show for the big screen.

Jamaica, Farewell runs through April 17 on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. at the Falcon Theatre located at 4252 Riverside Dr. in Burbank. For ticket information, visit www.falcontheatre.com or call (818) 955-8101.

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