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Songs for a New World

a Musical Revue
CATEGORY : MUSICAL
by Jason Robert Brown

COMPANY : O2 at Onstage Atlanta [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Onstage Atlanta, Inc. (Decatur) [WEBSITE]
ID# 1591

SHOWING : April 21, 2006 - May 20, 2006

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Says the author of this gripping revue, “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.” Newcomer Jason Robert Brown (composer-lyricist of the recent critical smash “Parade”) has the whole theatre community talking about his blend of savvy showmanship and exciting contemporary sound.

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 ranging from a young man who has determined that basket-ball 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. These are the stories and characters of today, the songs for a new world.


CAST & CREW LIST
Music Director/Piano Paul A. Tate
Director Barry N. West
Stage Manager/Light Tech Rob Hardie
Set/Lighting Designer Michael Magursky
Synthesizers Bob Amar
Drums & Percussion L. Gerard Reid
Man 1 Clinton Dillard
Man 2 Brett Parker
Woman 1 Amanda Leigh Pickard
Woman 2 Caitlin Accord- Smith
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REVIEWS

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Songs For A New World
by Outsider
Monday, May 1, 2006
4.0
Ya gotta go see “Songs For A New World” at OnStage Atlanta. It’s really, REALLY good. I wasn’t sure what to expect after hearing it was precast and then hearing it wasn’t. Well, however it was they assembled these four actors, they did a great job. Can’t imagine what talent they could have gotten that could have done it better.

The standout for me was Caitlin Smith. WOW! A really good singer and a great actress. Granted, she did have the comic relief in the show, but having that material and knowing what to do with it is two different things. Congratulations on a wonderful performance.

The others were quite good too. I wondered whom they were going to find to sing the tenor role and they found someone who was definitely up to the task in Clinton Dillard. YOU GO BOY!!! The only bad thing I’d say about his performance, and it’s really not that bad, is that he has as tendency to drop character during musical breaks in his songs.

Amanda Leigh Pickard has a really lovely, controlled soprano voice. “Christmas Lullaby” is a beautiful, touching moment in the show.

Another good voice is that of Brett Parker (too bad the band drowned him out at times). Though I thought his acting was good, it was a bit “too much” for me at places. Just wanted him to pull back with the stares at times. But all in all, a very good performance.

Kudos to the production staff. Barry West did a great job with the direction and staging. It’s really nice when a director let’s the material and the voices tell the story by not overdoing the staging. The musical direction too was very good. Paul Tate got some wonderful sounds out of the cast, as well as the band. However, as I mentioned earlier, the band was too loud at times and a couple of tempos seemed a little slow.

Congratulations OnStage Atlanta!
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Hear Their Song.... 4.5 stars
by woahfred
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
4.0
Ask any fan of modern musical theatre, and they’ll tell you that SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD is probably one of the most incredible shows of the past 10 years. I got a copy of the cast recording about 6 years ago, and have been listening to it non-stop ever since. Jason Robert Brown has written, in my opinion, some of the BEST songs in history with this show (I know, a little dramatic right? No, I’m totally serious…these songs are amazing).

Barry West and Paul Tate have assembled 4 very talented singers/actors to put on one hell of a show. The music in the show is VERY difficult. I repeat, VERY difficult. The harmonies, melodies, rhythms, etc. are some of the hardest ever written. It’s almost as if Jason Robert Brown took everything he ever learned in a music theory class and crammed it all into one show. These singers/actors do quite an admirable job for only having a couple of weeks to put this show together.

Let me start by mentioning just TWO “negatives” about the show, which in my opinion aren’t even that big. The band (led by MD Paul Tate) does an AMAZING job playing the show. They sound and look incredible sitting right there on the stage with a baby grand. Of course, a drawback to this is that, in such a small space, at times they drown out the singers. This was really only noticeable during percussion-heavy numbers, but damn, Gerard Reid is AWESOME! He is one of the best percussionists in town…if only his sound could be pulled back a bit.

There were also SEVERAL lighting cues dropped throughout the show. Again, in such a small space, it’s not as if you couldn’t see the actors, but it does become a bit distracting when an actor is in the dark for a few seconds. Mike Magursky’s lighting and set design is exquisite for this production. If only the board operator could pick up his cues, Magursky’s vision could be fully realized by the audience without distraction.

OK, now for the singers/actors themselves. In case, you hadn’t noticed, I refer to the cast as singers/actors not only because they MUST be good singers, but because they must ALSO be able to act the shit out of these songs. They don’t disappoint.

As “Woman #1”, Amanda Leigh Pickard has several memorable moments. Most notably, on her songs “I’m Not Afraid of Anything” and “Christmas Lullaby.” Amanda has a wonderful light soprano voice when needed, and not a bad belt either when called for. My only complaint is that she left me feeling like I wasn’t getting everything she could’ve given. At times, it seemed like she didn’t really know what she was “thinking” during the ensemble numbers—which wasn’t the case at during her solo numbers. She also kept fidgeting with her dress throughout the course of the show as well, which was a bit distracting. Overrall, she gave a good performance.

As “Woman #2”, Caitlin Smith comes across easily as the audience’s “favorite.” The reason I say this is because Caitlin has nearly all of the humor within the show. Some of the songs in this show are SO deep, the audience needs a “breather” now and then and Caitlin delivers each of her songs with such incredible passion, she really does stand out from the rest. “Just One Step” and “Surabaya-Santa” are the funniest songs in the show, and she kept the audience laughing throughout both of them. They are also sung in a “dialect” and her diction was excellent. I never had trouble understanding what she sang. Although these were excellent, I must point out that her shining moment was during “The Flagmaker, 1775”. This is probably my favorite song in the show—in my opinion, the lyrics are amazingly beautiful. She had me in tears by the end of the song. Caitlin didn’t necessarily sing “pretty” on this song—and she shouldn’t. She fell to her knees with a flag clutched to her chest and wailed away with so much emotion pouring out of her from the depths of her soul, it really makes you think about how no matter what “battles or conflicts” we may be involved in as a nation, we have ALWAYS felt the same about them. It was a very poignant moment.

Clinton Dillard totally blew me away as “Man #1”. Let me tell you, this guy’s voice is incredible. He has one of the most beautiful tenor voices I have heard in my life (and being a tenor myself, I can totally give him props for the job he did). Clinton is able to float his upper notes so lightly in what sounds like a “full” voice it just takes your breath away. He really shines on every song he sings, but my favorite would have to be “King of the World.” What an amazing job he did throughout the show. I really look forward to hearing him sing again around Atlanta.

Brett Parker as “Man #2” is by far the best actor in the show. Just like Caitlin Smith, Brett sings each and every note with so much passion he is impossible not to watch. During every ensemble number, the audience’s eyes are drawn to him. He has SO much going on in his head that never once are we left thinking that he doesn’t know what he’s singing about. At times, he is VERY intense, especially on “She Cries.” Knowing how young Brett is, I thought he might not be able to pull of this song very well, but even if he doesn’t have “life experience” enough to emote properly, we’ll never know. He delivered it with an appropriate balance of humor and honesty. His most brilliant moment on stage, however, is during “I’d Give it All For You.” His performance in this song was so incredible it gave me chills and brought a tear to my eye. As a tenor singing the baritone role, he did an excellent job.

I must also mention how wonderful Barry West’s staging for the show is. Since I am SO familiar with the music, it was very interesting to see how these songs were staged. Some of my favorites included “On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492”, “Flying Home” and “The River Won’t Flow”—which I heard Brett Parker came up with the concept for…it was very good.

Overrall, this is a strong, solid production that is well worth seeing. I’m pretty sure anyone who appreciates good music would fall in love with this show if they haven’t already. I just couldn't give the show a "5" since it wasn't absolutely perfect, but I think a "4.5" is a very good and reasonable rating for this show. When are we going to get 1/2 ratings on here?? Once again, great job Onstage Atlanta.
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