Sebastien Heins is a young Jamaican actor who got his first break several years ago as a child star playing Simba in the Toronto production of the musical The Lion King, one of the most successful theatrical productions of all time.
Heins, now 23, is currently in New York City and on Wednesday night he wowed a large audience on Broadway with a sizzling one man show called Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera written and performed by him and directed by Adam Lazarus. Heins’ performance forms part of New York City’s third annual United Solo Festival, a six week multicultural theatrical event that presents one person performances in the heart of the city’s theater district. This festival describes itself as the largest of its kind in the world.
With non-stop high energy dancing, miming, rapping, and singing, Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera tells a compelling story in rhyme about the unlikely journey of two brothers who were deeply immersed in hip hop and R &B music, about how they were torn apart from each other and the circumstances that brought them back together again.
The entire show is written in rhyme with cleverly crafted lyrics utilizing the genres of hip hop and R & B as well as elements of reggae and dancehall. The one hour production has the feeling of a long form music video spanning 60 years, taking the audience from the present to the 1970s, then fast forwarding 30 years into the future. Heins of course plays several roles and he is able to successfully pull this off by drawing on all the skills acquired at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal where he studied. Immensely helpful too is his impeccable dexterity at changing voices.
Heins is the son of a Jamaican mother, Shella Roye Heins from Savanna-la-Mar and a German father. The play was inspired by Sebastien’s two cousins in Jamaica and as the saga unfolds, it feels very much like a love letter to his Jamaican roots. The performance is seasoned with many warm-hearted references to Jamaica. Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera is an uncompromisingly bold and a supremely entertaining excursion into the often perilous realm of one man shows.
Among those attending were hot shot Broadway producer Stephen Byrd, actors Charmaine Lord, Susan Brady, Colin Mercer, Noah Reid and Taylor Murphy. Also enjoying the performance were marketing executive Noel Mignott, his wife Ava Joy Gill, former Miss Jamaica and Miss World runner up, travel specialist Sylvia Delvaille Jones and Nancy Burke visiting from Kingston, Jamaica.
An after party was held in Sebastien Heins’ honor at the nearby Chez Josephine on West 42nd Street.
By Dave Rodney