All three women have been with the group from very young and are certainly qualified and experienced enough to take on their stage roles, in whatever capacity.
“I’ve basically grown up in the choir. Quite literally, I was in utero while my mother was leading the choir on a competitive tour of the UK. Working on Les Mis means I get to bring my theatre background to the table, as well as play a major part (no pun intended) in us staging this epic musical, loved by theatre aficionados the world over, on Trini soil. I’m the stage director and play Madame Th?nardier, and also work on the production side,” Taylor tells WMN of her experience with the Marionettes and the production of Les Mis.
“The members of Marionettes may not know it, but my affiliation with the chorale began in my childhood. My first voice teacher was Holitza Seecharan-Lawrence. She was also a soloist with the Marionettes Chorale and for many years I would attend Marionettes’ dress rehearsals and concerts to watch and hear my teacher perform. She was a wonderful mentor and a fabulous soprano. I especially remember her powerful rendition of ‘Ride On King Jesus.’ She built my confidence and was the first to put me on stage in front of an audience,” Alcantara, who plays Fantine, reveals.
“As time passed, I developed a positive relationship with various members of the chorale through a guest performance and the brief but always encouraging and developmental words from Gretta Taylor. When auditions for the opera Carmen came around, Anne Fridal convinced me that I could land the title role. She trained me for the role and it paid off. The character of Carmen is free and self-assured. Playing this role meant moving yourself to a state of comfort and confidence to allow others into your personal space. The months of rehearsal cemented my relationship with the chorale. Jumping into the role of Fantine in Les Miswithin this familiar space was a real advantage,” continues Alcantara, a classically trained vocalist who also performs music within the jazz and adult contemporary genres.
Also revealing her childhood experience with the Marionettes is Williams, who plays Cosette in Les Mis. “I joined the Marionettes Youth Chorale when I was 12 years old and performed as a chorister and eventually a soloist for ten years consecutively.” Her repertoire extends from classical to contemporary styles in both local and international settings.
She notes, “Actually, I fell in love with Opera while preparing to perform Carl Off’s opera Carmina Burana with The Marionettes Chorale. I was awakened to its power for storytelling even through the orchestration. Though often in a foreign language, the stories and images are so relevant and painted so vividly and vibrantly using all the colours of the orchestra and the voice, to express the gamut of human emotion and aptly capture the intensity of our experiences.” All experiences that set the stage for the evolution of their lives, professional and otherwise.
“This opportunity really catalysed my musical and artistic development. The experience has indelibly shaped my career. I learn many valuable things even beyond musical and artistic excellence, power of teamwork, business of the Arts, strategic management and marketing,” Williams explains.
Among her qualifications and achievements are a BSc in Biochemistry and Nutritional Sciences from the University of the West Indies, her membership with Kashu-do Studios, working with renowned Haitian vocal pedagogue Dr Jean-Ronald La Fond in Europe, and participation in master classes with Lorraine Nubar of the Juilliard School, New York.
Williams is currently working towards an Artist Diploma in Music Performance at the Academy for the Performing Arts- University of Trinidad and Tobago.
Taylor, who now works on various aspects of the Marionettes’ artistic and production work, holds a BA in Performance Studies from Williams College and an MA in Theatre & Performance from the University of London (Goldsmiths), and also studied at the Lee Strasberg Film & Theatre Institute and Trinity/La MaMa Experimental Theatre Company in New York. She has had title roles in a number of local and international productions. Outside of the performing arts, she works at MEP Publishers on book and magazine projects, including Caribbean Beat and Discover Trinidad & Tobago. In her free time she volunteers and freelances with other publications, non profits, start ups and SMBs, including Carnival and fashion brand K2K.
Alcantara describes herself as a multi-dimensional player in the local entertainment sector, and is a marketing professional in the creative and cultural sector and a producer of music events.
“A Fulbright Fellowship afforded me the opportunity to attain an MA in Arts, Entertainment and Media Management with an emphasis in Music Business in Chicago, where I also lectured in the field of Music Publishing and the Business of Music. I am a current board member of the NGO The Music Literacy Trust and a former board member of the Copyright Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago,” she explains.
So what does the future hold for these leading ladies of the performing arts? You’ve guessed it – more performances, more spotlights, more fanfare, more curtain calls, more standing ovations, and many, many more musical and theatrical accomplishments.
“In the broadest sense, I want to continue telling stories — through page, stage, screen, song… I hope the Marionettes will continue to be able to put on productions like this which mean so much to people. I know I’m speaking vaguely, but in my line(s) of work, you can never give too much away too early,” Taylor says with a smile.
Williams outlines her plans. “To continue to perform as a soloist at weddings, corporate and private events. There’s a special joy that comes from sharing in these special celebratory moments - graduations, weddings, birthdays and award ceremonies. To perform more of my original compositions and collaborate with local artistes to add some more positive, uplifting, thought provoking music to our local music landscape. To help the world to explore our Caribbean identity through our musical traditions, and to become a vocal scientist and pedagogue and help advance the _ eld of vocal science in the Caribbean.” Alcantara is less explicit. “There are so many future ideas in my head that I sometimes overwhelm myself. I do know that God, family and my music will play a great part. I hope to do more work with the two gentlemen that I call my big brothers in the music…namely Enrique Ali and Michael ‘Ming’ Low Chew Tung. They have heavily influenced two seemingly opposing areas of my singing career – classical music and Caribbean jazz/ adult contemporary music respectively. These men have two things in common. The first is that I totally respect their music, their skill and hence their opinions. Secondly, they both demonstrated faith in my talent. They simply believed that I could… and then made me do it,” She recorded the eponymous album Candice in 2005, envisions.
And as far as the successful staging of Les Miserables goes, Taylor lauds the cast for its talent and commitment to the production.