Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Songs for A New World"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2007 by Tony Annicone

"Songs for A New World"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Turtle Lane Playhouse's current show is "Songs for a New World" written and composed by Jason Robert Brown. It is a musical revue in two acts. The show sits on the boundary between musical and song cycle:it is a series of largely 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 57 stories above Fifth Avenue to meet a startling 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 as well as some well known historical and fictional characters including Christopher Columbus, Mrs. Claus and Betsy Ross. Brown's music in this show is heavily influenced by a broad range of genres including pop, gospel, jazz and classical music, making it an example of musical pastiche. Director Scott Brumit casts 7 talented performers for this show while Wayne Ward musically directs this all singing show and Donald Gregorio choreographs and blocks them wonderfully.

The glorious score of this show soars with the vocal talents of this cast. Chuck Walsh's phenomenal high tenor voice flows from full voice into falsetto perfectly in his many songs including "The New World" as Christopher Columbus, "The Steam Train" about escaping an ordinary life, "King of the World" about a Wall Street tycoon and "Flying Home" about angels helping you. Elizabeth Robinson's lovely soprano voice is heard in "I'm Not Afraid of Anything", Transition One ( a reprise of "The New World") and a gorgeous ballad about the Blessed Mother called "Christmas Lullaby". (Penny Hanson sings these numbers at alternate performances but she sings the chorus numbers when she is not doing the solos.) Man 2 is shared by baritones, Mark Ferriero and Richard Bento. Mark sings a beautiful duet with Elizabeth called "I'd Give It All for You" as well as soloing on "The River Won't Flow" and "The World Was Dancing" while Richard solos on "She Cries". (They switch songs at alternating performances.) Woman 2, the mezzo soprano role is shared by Donna DeWitt and Anne Velthouse. Donna sings a Miss Adelaide type song called "Just One Step" about her cheating husband and the Betsy Ross song called "The Flagmaker, 1775" which is an antiwar song about sewing one more star on the flag. Anne sings about snagging a rich husband in "The Stars and the Moon" but it is all a shallow existence and a torch song called "Surabaya-Santa" where she is Mrs. Claus threatening to leave her hubby. All the chorus numbers sound beautiful especially the harmonic blend. There is a slide show during some of the numbers to help the audience understand what is happening. So for a musical treat, be sure to catch "Songs for a New World" where the voices soar off the charts with their beauty and power.

"Songs for A New World" (2 February - 11 March)
TURTLE LANE PLAYHOUSE
283 Melrose Street, NEWTON MA
1 (617) 244-0169

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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