Philosophy and music combine for an unusual musical production in Songs for a New World.
Neither a musical nor a song cycle, this show could be described as an abstract musical. It has no plot and no regular characters, but rather a series of cameos loosely linked by a theme song. It is almost a “best of” selection of Jason Robert Brown’s songs.
Fans of his work are likely to love Irregular Productions’ polished show. For those who don’t recognise Brown’s name, he is probably best known for the Broadway show Parade and off-Broadway’s The Last Five Years.
Songs for a New World opened in New York in October 1995. Individual songs are easily lifted from this musical and prove popular on the Adelaide cabaret circuit.
The strength of this production lies in the beautiful music and the philosophy imbued in each song. As Brown says, “It is 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.” As such this musical speaks to each and everyone who has lived long enough to experience an obstacle or an opportunity that proves life changing, and perhaps proves a catalyst to questioning the meaning of life.
In each song we meet someone who has come face to face with just such a turning point.
In the wrong hands some of these songs can prove somewhat maudlin. Director Andy Ahrens has tended to over-emphasise the sentiment in some of the songs and hence the highlight of Irregular Productions’ show are the humorous songs handled brilliantly by Megan Humphries.
Humphries is scintillating as Mrs Clause in Surabaya Santa, a sparkling spoof of the song Surabaya Johnny from Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's 1929 German musical Happy End. She is marvellous as she maligns Murray in Just One Step. Yet it is her performance in Stars and the Moon that really highlights this performer’s deft ability to portray any emotion with conviction. Like eminent songstress K D Lang, Humphries sings from the soul.
This show employs four performers who play different characters throughout. Alongside Humphries, are Joel Valenti, Mark Oates and Meg Tucker.
Valenti is compelling in his songs, particularly King of the World, where he portrays the full extent of the meaning of the word power – power to conquer, power to believe, power of self-belief and eventually the impotence at a lack of power.
Oates sings and performs outstandingly, proving his talent for singing with heart particularly in I’d Give It All for You. Perhaps his solo in She Cries could have made more of Oates’ talent for comedy which was delightful in Surabaya Santa.
Meg Tucker is the odd one out in this quartet. Her performance is polished and yet lacking conviction. Nevertheless this is a strong ensemble with wonderful harmonies, backed by effective choreography by Sue Pole.
Musical Director Peter Johns steers a steady course successfully showcasing the various music styles of this musical and supporting the cast of four.
Johns has also experienced his own “one moment” by starting up Irregular Productions and producing this show. As such, he and the show are an inspiration to all who take one moment to purchase a ticket and be uplifted or inspired.
Irregular Productions presents
songs for a new world
by Jason Robert Brown
Director Andy Ahrens
Venue: State Opera Studio | 216 Marion Road, Netley
Dates: 21-29 January, 2011
Times: 21, 22, 27, 28, 29 January @ 8pm, 23 January @ 4pm and 29 January @ 2pm
Duration: 1 hr 35 min including interval (approx)
Bookings: 0408 286 894 | www.trybooking.com/