In the game of all-fours one is sometimes dealt a bad hand with no trump cards other than the Jack and no other face cards to help pull one through. Yet at the end one can somehow make it through without one's Jack being hanged and even scoring enough points to get game and go on to win the entire match.
The same happens in life when a person is faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles that people say they will never conquer, but then a world of opportunities open up before them and through faith, determination and drive that person ends up at the pinnacle of success. This is the experience of Kwesi Jeffers, the 2010 National Calypso Young King who is about to begin a year-long stint in the British run of Disney's Lion King.
Jeffers first grabbed national attention in 2003 when he participated in the talent competition titled, Soundstage produced by CCN Six Point Productions. From as far back as then it was obvious that the young man would do great things. He was an exceptional performer who drew audiences in with his captivating on-stage persona. Jeffers has a fantastic voice that he knows how to manipulate and he dramatises his performance to just the right measure, commanding the attention of his audiences until his very last motion.
Orphaned as a child, Jeffers grew up with his grandmother knowing what struggle was. He, however, always knew there would be a way out of the situation he was in and formulated a plan for his life. Jeffers decided early on that he would have a career in entertainment and he went for the brass ring with sheer determination and without apology. The multitalented youth entered the competition arenas of calypso, soca and others, excelling in every area.
Jeffers placed third in the 2006 edition of the Digicel Rising Stars competition and from there went on to the Synergy Soca Star 3 competition in 2008 making it to the finals. He has also competed in a number of major calypso competitions winning the Young King title in 2010 with what was truly a fantastic performance of, "Climate Change" composed for him by Christophe Grant. That particular victory seemed to signal a change in fortune for Kwesi who by then was not only an accomplished singer, but also a skilled dancer, actor and model.
In 2010 Disney contracted singer and Rising Star judge, Glenda Collens to run auditions to find local performers for its cruise line as well as other productions. Jeffers auditioned and was selected to perform on the Disney Magic cruise ship. Jeffers is in fact the first person from the Caribbean to be selected for what is known as a Disney Main Stage production.
For that first 11-month stint, Jeffers was featured in productions including, Twice Charmed, Villains Tonight where he played Scar (Lion King) and Jafar (Aladdin) and Art of the Story where his was a Tarzan Singer. During that run Jeffers experienced places such as Rome, La Spezia, Corsica, Sicily, Monte Carlo, Naples, Malta, Gibraltar, Barcelona, Palma, Palma de Mallorca and other destinations visited by Disney Magic.
When that first stint was over, Jeffers spent time in Washington DC, USA, where he did vocal training and music theory. He said while on the ship he realised that he was the only cast member that did not read music and he decided to learn. Being unable to read the score sheets did not really place him at a disadvantage, mind you.
"I remember first looking at the sheet and thinking, what is this? It was gibberish to me. But all they had to do was play the music and I would catch on immediately. Others would have to go over it a few times, but I seemed to get it right away. That's the advantage of being a Trini, I guess. That first year was just wonderful. I saw places I never even dreamed I would ever experience. It was simply fantastic. I made many friends especially a woman named, Natalie Spriggs. I went to England to sing for her sister's wedding a couple of weeks ago," Jeffers said.
Jeffers did not even have to audition for Lion King, which begins its British tour on August 31 and runs until August next year at various places throughout Britain. The cast has also been invited to be a part of the opening of the 2012 Olympics.
Jeffers will be the understudy to the actor playing Mufasa as well as an Ensemble 1 singer. And there is already an opportunity for Jeffers to work on the West End (London's main theatre district, like Broadway in New York) when this run is complete.
"I did not have to audition for Lion King. The director heard of my work on Disney Magic and gave me the opportunity. I also have a very good opportunity to work on West End after this. I just need to apply myself and remain humble. I am so thankful to be in the Lion King because since I was a child I have wanted to be in Lion King. I eventually want to get into feature film and also want to work on doing a CD. Remember, I once said that I will have a Grammy by the time I am 30. So I got to get on that now," Jeffers said.
Jeffers said that along with God, there have been a lot of people who have helped and encouraged him along the way. Of course his grandmother and uncle Dan, but also his dear friend Karene Asche and cousin Kizzy Ruiz. He also spoke of calypsonian, Joanne "Tigress" Rowley who is like a mother to him and always encourages him to go after what he wants. He said he is also thankful to Ian and Nina McKenzie of the mas band Genesis.
"Ian and Nina are always praying for me. They pray a lot and have always supported me. Tigress is like my mother always there to encourage me and rest a good bouff on me when I play the fool. And I have to say thanks to Bernadette Laughlin-Scott of the Love Movement. She really looks out for me. I have been with the group for about three years, but I missed the concert for the 40th anniversary. I am hoping that I can at least be here for the Christmas production even if I can only come in for the show and then leave. I get a couple weeks vacation time and I think I'll use a couple days from it for that," Jeffers said.