Alwin Bully’s McBee Triumphs at American Premiere Presentation In New York

Alwin Bully's McBee Premier
Cast of McBee
Photo Credit: Ian Buddington

NEW YORK Broadway World Award winner David Heron and the cast of Alwin Bully’s McBee are celebrating  the success of the play’s American Premiere Presentation which took place on Sunday June 23 at The Jamaica Performing Arts Center (JPAC) in Jamaica Queens, New York.

The play, produced and directed by Heron, was presented as a one night only staged reading production. It was in tribute to its playwright, the late Alwin Bully, and as an exclusive cultural event in celebration of New York City’s annual Caribbean American Heritage Month festivities, held across the city each June.

A large and enthusiastic audience filled JPAC for the first ever performance of Bully’s play on American soil, and rose to its feet at the climax of the production to offer the cast a rousing standing ovation that lasted several minutes.

McBee’s Roster

The star studded roster of actors taking to the stage was lead by Amazon Prime Harlem star Luke Forbes and How Stella Got Her Groove Back actress Denise Hunt. They were joined by Jerry Benzwick, Lincoln Brown, Dianne Dixon, Emilio Evans, Gerard Joseph, Miranda Melhado, Mitzie Pratt and James Duke Walker.

Producer -director Heron – who earlier this year won the 2023 Broadway World Award for Best Supporting Performer for his performance as Caliban in The Colonial Theatre of Rhode Island’s The Tempest – joined the cast as a last minute replacement for another actor who withdrew from the project days before the production.

The performance was preceded by a Caribbean Cuisine Reception in collaboration with Golden Krust Restaurant, as well as free tea sampling by sponsors Kendel Instant Ginger Teas.

Anita Bully, the widow of playwright Alwin Bully, officially welcomed the audience with a brief onstage address, accompanied by their son Brent. In her remarks, Bully recalled that for her late husband, McBee was not just an adaptation but an extension of  Shakespeare’s original Macbeth.

“It is a retelling and reworking in much the same manner that Shakespeare handled the original story from Holinshed’s Chronicles,” she said. “Alwin did not try to rewrite Shakespeare’s poetry. His intention was to give the story a Caribbean immediacy while maintaining the original intent.”

She went on to speak about the recently formed Alwin Bully Foundation which will continue his vision of providing training for promising young persons in the visual and performing arts.

In sharing his own experience of being mentored by Bully, Heron told the audience  that the first two plays  he wrote- Ecstasy and Intermission– were showcased and  then prepared for production following a staged reading development process spearheaded by Bully and his theatre company The Company Limited in Jamaica in the 1990s.

“Thanks largely to Alwin’s vision, new playwrights had the opportunity to have  their work submitted and chosen for a staged reading presentation produced by The Company Limited, with a professional cast and director,” he stated. “And in the audience talkback afterwards, the playwright could gain insight into adjustments that might be helpful to take the play forward. I owe much of my early success as a playwright to Alwin, who chose my first two plays to be part of that process and spent many hours motivating and guiding me as I honed the scripts.“

McBee follows the story of Caribbean husband and wife political power couple Allan and Alice McBee (Luke Forbes and Denise Hunt). When Allan shares with his wife a mysterious prophesy he receives from three Rastafarians- that he is destined to become the nation’s Prime Minister- they immediately forge a bloody plan to make it all a reality, resulting in explosive consequences for themselves and their country.

Second Coming of McBee

Sunday night’s performance marks what Heron refers to as “The second coming of McBee”. Stating that “I hope that once the word about this great work- and Sunday’ s tremendous public response to it- circulates within the New York theatre community, it will find its way into the right hands, leading to a fully mounted production. There is simply nothing else out there quite like it, and it deserves to be seen as far and wide as possible.”

Sponsors of Sunday night’s premiere event included The True Tribute Organization, IMC Media and Results Promo and Marketing.