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Songs for a New World
a Musical Cabaret
by Jason Robert Brown

VENUE : Theatre In The Square:Alley Stage [WEBSITE]
ID# 5513

SHOWING : May 16, 2019 - June 01, 2019



It’s about one moment. It’s about hitting the wall and having to make a choice... or take a stand... or turn around and go back. These are the stories and characters of today, the "Songs for a New World." The first musical from Tony Award winner, Jason Robert Brown ("Parade," "Bridges of Madison County"), this moving collection of powerful songs examines life, love and the choices that we make.
Brown transports his audience from the deck of a 1492 Spanish sailing ship to a ledge, 57 stories above Fifth Avenue, to meet a startling array of characters that range from a young man who has determined that basketball is his ticket out of the ghetto to a woman whose dream of marrying rich nabs her the man of her dreams... and a soulless marriage.

Director Ricardo Aponte
Woman 1 Maggie Salley
Woman 2 Adrianna Trachell
Man 1 Juan Carlos Unzueta
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Power Ballad Overload
by playgoer
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Song cycles without a through-line of plot tend to come across as concerts or cabarets. Jason Robert Brown’s "Songs for a New World" is no exception. No matter how much you admire the songs or performances, there’s the missing element of plot that makes for an incomplete evening of theatre.

That’s not to say that director/choreographer Ricardo Aponte hasn’t done his best to keep the material fluid and kinetic. While the opening number seems a bit over-choreographed as pseudo-shipboard movements accompany the words, it soon becomes clear that he has done a bang-up job of directing the show in the round. There’s not a corner of the four-sided audience that gets cheated for more than a beat or two. Never has the Alley Stage seen such a professional job of playing to all parts of the audience (even the empty section at the performance I attended).

The songs are generally power ballads that the powerful voices of the cast blast out. Musical director Amanda Wansa-Morgan has gotten great sound out of both the cast and the six-piece band, the members of which are spread around the edges of the playing area. While all the songs are generally serious in tone, two of them are played for laughs -- one about a woman threatening suicide and another about the dissatisfaction of Santa Claus’ wife. The amazing Adrianna Trachell performs both numbers, and she triumphs in them, letting the tiniest movement speak comic volumes.

The rest of the cast has only serious numbers. Juan Carlos Unzueta tends to have the chip-on-the-shoulder numbers, Jared Bradshaw the energetically macho ones, and Maggie Salley the poignant ones. They all excel, although the scale of Mr. Bradshaw’s performance is gauged for a larger auditorium than the intimate setting of the Alley Stage.

Zack Vandever’s set consists of a three-level set of rounded wood platforms in the center, with carpets and runners on the floor leading to seating at four equidistant spots in the rectangular playing area. Mike Moran’s lighting delineates the various portions of the playing space in which action occurs, although transitions from one spot to another are sometimes a bit dim. Paul Glaze’s sound design keeps voices and orchestra pretty well in balance, although the massed choral sound in many numbers can become a wall of sound more than a distinguishable set of lyrics.

"Songs for a New World" combines a bunch of heartfelt songs performed by a top-notch set of singer-dancers into a production that is visually appealing, with interesting angles in the central platform, occasional videos accompanying parts of songs, and small costume adjustments bringing life to individual numbers. What is likely to impress most, though, is the sound. Mr. Aponte and Ms. Wansa-Morgan have created a production that gets the very most out of the material that Jason Robert Brown’s songs provide. Four very talented performers turn the show into a showcase for their many talents. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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