Songs for a New World
DANIEL CLEMENTS enjoys the great band and singing of this Jason Robert Brown’s song cycle.
ADC Theatre, 11pm, Wed 23rd – Sat 26th October, £6/7
Songs for a New World by Jason Robert Brown is one of those funny shows that seems to defy classification. Really, I would consider it a musical with very little plot. But from a different perspective it could just as easily be described as a review of thematically linked songs with a simple story to hold them together. The song cycle focuses on a group of four actors at the end of a rehearsal who begin to sing on the subject of big life choices and decision – and that’s pretty much it. Don’t get me wrong, the songs are catchy and there are some interesting themes running through, but this is just a forewarning: don’t go in expecting anything more plot-wise, as dialogue is scarce.
A scene was already in full flow on stage as the audience entered which worked well to express the feeling of activity winding down. As the show got going there were some technical sound issues that recurred numerous times during the production and could be a bit irritating, but hopefully these hiccups can be put down to opening night syndrome. There were also some points where the sound levels meant that the band was much too loud for the singers. The audience was relatively small and were at times only lukewarm in their appreciation of the show, which unfortunately led to a few jokes near the start falling completely flat. The staging was effective despite being quite minimalist, though I would say that the production didn’t feel committed to the idea of a working rehearsal space – not enough interaction had been planned for the cast to reinforce this idea in the minds of the audience. Perhaps some more activity on stage may have been beneficial to break up the songs.
As I stated previously, the band were excellent and the whole cast put on a good show with some very demanding songs. The highlight of the production was the fantastic singing and expressive acting of Eavan Prenter – it was a real treat to watch. Great performances were also seen from Oli MacFarlane and Sarah Mercer who had some great chemistry on stage, whilst Lauren Hutchinson delivered some intensely powerful songs. And I have to mention the excellent lighting design by Tom Johnson which was successful in adding to the feeling of drawing towards the end of the day.
On the whole the show was enjoyable, though without an interval or any dialogue to break up the singing it did begin to feel a tad repetitive towards the end. Nevertheless, issues with sound and staging were made up for by some excellent performances by the cast and band.