Many came to watch the Ronnie Dollar Production of Jamel Hudson’s “This Is Me!” The audience almost filled up three-quarters of the seats in the Town Hall of Islip, New York, and it seemed most were supportive friends and family willing to pay ten dollars to “watch Jamel do what he does in his high school cafeteria,” an actual quote from his show. The show was oddly set up as a two act play and gave the feel of a high school concert. The first act showcased multiple local performers with various talents, ranging from poetry, singing, dancing, and cello playing. The second act was, of course, Jamel Hudson along with his band.
The show began with a slideshow introducing everyone to the life of Jamel Hudson: this included his birthdate, clips of his youth, his friends, some of his roles in plays, a video that Jamel acted in himself that was most likely published on youtube, some moments of Jamel on his wrestling team, and some interviews with Jamel on the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People in which Jamel highlights the audience on his views of the world. In shorter terms, it was like watching a graduation slideshow created by his parents to be played at Jamel’s graduation party, which may be close to the truth, considering Jamel’s father, Ron Hudson is Jamel’s producer. Now, this is not to say that Jamel is not talented, because he absolutely is.
Jamel has appeared in Gateway Children’s theater productions, multiple commercials, Gateway Playhouse’s productions, and was a semi-finalist in American Idol Jr. since he began performing at the age of four. These were just some of the many accomplishments listed in the large bio featured in the show’s four-page program. The other three pages consisted of the title page, the sequence of acts, and a save-the-date for Ronnie Dollar’s next production in December.
During his time on stage, Jamel sang many covers such as Mr. Bojangles by Sammie Davis Jr., Hoochie Coochie Man by Muddy Waters, and Housebreak by Prince. He also performed a tap-dancing number and showed off some dance moves. Jamel is a great entertainer and if the show featured only him and didn’t open with an awkward slideshow, the production would have been much more entertaining. However, the show did open the way it did and the slideshow was followed by a number of young adults with great talent.
Perhaps one of the most amazing of these dubbed “opening acts,” was Sade Taylor, a two time Apollo winner, who sang “Who’s Loving You” by The Miracles and “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” by Jennifer Hudson. Sade has an amazingly powerful voice that cannot possibly be forgotten.
Act one also highlighted poetry by Ariama Long, Alley Hawkings, and Taylor Threadgill. All three girls gave outstanding readings of their poems with great stage presence and intensity.
Nailah Braxton performed an original hip-hop routine and Lauren Elizabeth was a ballerina accompanied by Cleriea Eltime on cello. Cleriea also went on to perform a solo piece as well. Last but not least, Nichole Anderson sang “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen which featured her unique low tone quality as well as her more powerful chest voice. These “opening acts” deserved a bit more credit than they received and if the show had continued on with these talented youths, it may have been just as great, maybe even better.
Although the show experienced some technical difficulties, the facility wasn’t exactly Jones Beach Theater, and the presentation was interesting, the production was a great showcase of local talent and Jamel Hudson.