MMAS's winter show is "Songs for a New World", which is an off Broadway hit musical with music and lyrics by Tony Award winner, Jason Robert Brown. The show is about hitting the wall and making a choice, take a stand, or turn around and go back. It is a pop/rock revue featuring an array of characters who seek the American dream through laughter, love, companionship, adventure and passion. The show sits on the boundary between musical and song cycle. It is a series of disjointed songs with no plot or characters that continue from song to song, but the songs and production themselves are highly theatrical and character driven. Brown transports the audience from the deck of a Spanish sailing ship to the ledge 37 stories above Fifth Avenue to meet an array of characters ranging from a young man 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. It also includes some well known historical and fictional characters including Christoper Columbus, Mrs. Claus and Betsy Ross. The music in this show is influenced by a broad range of genres including pop, jazz, gospel and classical music, making it an example of musical pastiche. Director Meg Quin Dussault casts five talented performers for this show, blocking them wonderfully while Shannon Manley musically directs this all singing show. Their expertise wins them a standing ovation at curtain call on a job very well done.
The talented performers with amazing voices are Kristen Trembley, Katherine Joy, Laura and Brian Gustafson and Rob Gasse. The harmonies are splendid and the glorious score soars with the vocal talents of this cast. Rob has a strong baritone and his songs include "The New World" as Christopher Columbus, "King of the World", a calypso type song about a Wall Street Tycoon, "The Steam Train", a jazz song about escaping from the ghetto by playing basketball and "Flying Home" about angels helping you. This last number is reminiscent of "And I'm Telling You" from "Dreamgirls" with its rock quality to it. Laura's fabulous mezzo voice is heard belting in "The New World" reprise called Transition 1, the lovely ballad called "The Stars and the Moon" about snagging a rich husband but ends up living a hollow existence and in the fantastic duet with her real life husband, Brian called "I'd Give It All for You" which is very tender and touching. Laura handles both ballads and up tempo numbers with ease.
Brian's terrific high tenor voice is heard in "The Steam Train", a jazz song about escaping ordinary life, "The World Was Dancing" about a college guy who cheats on his girlfriend dropping her before the wedding and "She Cries.'' These emotion packed songs are given powerful renditions by this marvelous performer who goes from full false to falsetto perfectly. Katherine Joy's gorgeous soprano voice is heard in two character songs "Just One Step" which is like a Miss Adelaide song about her cheating husband, Murray as she is poised to jump off the ledge of a building. Another standout number is The Flag Maker" about Betsy Ross sewing stars and stripes on the flag as more soldiers die in the war. This latter number is a marvelous antiwar song. Her most emotion packed song is "Christmas Lullaby" about the Blessed Mother. Kristen's powerful soprano voice soars in "Flying Home" a tender ballad, "I'm Not Afraid of Anything" and also sings the lead in "The River Won't Flow" with Rob. Kristen's comic song is "Surabaya Santa" where she scolds Santa for leaving her at home on Christmas Eve. All the chorus numbers sound astounding with the harmonic blend of this quintet. Meg uses projection screens to show world events to thread the show together for the appreciative audience. So for a superb musical treat, be sure to catch "Songs for a New World" at MMAS. Tell them Tony sent you. Also a word of praise to Shannon and her topnotch orchestra.