Sunday, March 18, 2018
Film star Lena Horne made her Broadway debut in a show that was basically a concert. It didn't start that way. Jamaica was conceived as a vehicle for Calypso singer Harry Belafonte. He would play a Jamaican fisherman resisting the commercialization of the local culture and attempting to keep his NYC loving partner by his side. Some accounts say Belafonte left due to illness. Others say he was unhappy with the material.
Lena Horne had turned down St. Louis Woman in the 40's but agreed to play Jamaica's flighty leading lady. The show shifted focus to her character and the book was cut to ribbons. According to wikipedia she opts to stay in Jamaica after her fisherman beau (now played by Ricardo Montalbán) rescues her brother from a hurricane. Sure. Whatever. It ran a year and a half.
The show is so slight and dated that even Encores won't revive it. Instead they gave Vanessa Williams a handful of Horne's songs in a 2018 revue. Songs like "Push de Button," "Cocoanut Sweet" and "Ain't It The Truth" (cut from Horne's Cabin in the Sky) are worth another listen.