The first show of Summer Stage at Bishop Hendricken 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. However in this version of the show director Andrew Brown and choreographer Colin Sullivan weave the characters together with Andrew's dynamic blocking and Colin's highly inventive and stylized dances to help the audience easily understand the meaning of each number. E. Justin Simone's musical direction of the ten vocalists and small combo is topnotch, too. The author transports the audience from the deck of a Spanish sailing ship to the ledge 57 stories above Fifth Avenue then the audience meets a startling array of characters ranging from a young man determined that basketball is his ticket out of the ghetto to a woman whose dream of marrying rich nabs her the man of her dreams but leaves her with a soulless marriage. Some historical figures depicted include the Blessed Mother, Christopher Columbus 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 a shining example of musical pastiche. The results are a smash hit for these ten multitalented performers and their hardworking production staff.
A word of praise to the lighting designer, Tyler Perry who creates mood lighting with his many colored lights and especially the star lights to tug at your heart strings. (Tyler is going to be a senior in high school and will be pursuing a technical theater career in college. He started acting at a young age and I directed him in "Lost in Yonkers" in 2002.) Brother John Kiernan built the two twelve inch, two twenty two inch and the large thirty two inch platforms for the show while Chris Tucci as stage manager keeps the cast on their toes on stage and backstage, too. The glorious score of this show soars with the vocal and dancing talents of this cast. Sabatino Giordano's phenomenal high tenor voice soars in the opening number "The New World" as Christopher Columbus and he does an excellent scat during it, too. He also sings a calypso type song in the second act called "King of the World" while the other cast members perform one of Colin's inventive dances during it. Katie Hughes has two character numbers which she sells perfectly, the first is a Miss Adelaide type song called "Just One Step" about her cheating husband Murray while she is poised to jump off the ledge of her building in NY and the other is a pretty ballad called "The Stars and the Moon" about snagging a rich husband but it is all a shallow existence. Kim Kalunian's superb soprano voice soars throughout the show in her various solo parts but it is in "Flying Home'' that she melts the audience's heart with its tender delivery. She also shows off her strong dancing skills all night long. Jess Walsh has two dynamite numbers, the first is "I'm Not Afraid of Anything" and the latter is as Betsy Ross she sings the powerful "The Flagmaker" which is an antiwar song about sewing one more star and stripe on the flag as soldiers continue to die during all wars. ( There is an awesome dance number during this song which won't leave a dry eye in the house.) The energetic singer/dancer Bobby Lima sings "The Steam Train" which closes Act 1. He plays a basketball player telling that everyone don't know me, but you will, where the character tries to break out of the ghetto. Bobby uses his fantastic voice singing lead in the chorus song, "The River Won't Flow".
Ryan Durkay powerful baritone voice soars in "She Cries" and in "The World Was Dancing" about a college guy who cheats on his girlfriend and eventually drops her before their wedding and in the duet "I'd Give it All for You. Christiana Rodi sings the latter duet with Ryan showing off her gorgeous soprano voice and she sings different solos during the show,too. Becky Ryan shows off her lovely soprano voice in the most beautiful ballad in the show which is about the Blessed Mother called "Christmas Lullaby and sings the lead in "The River Won't Flow. The two main dancers in this show are Rikki Bicknell and Derek Capobianco who are like two whirling dervishes appearing during most of the songs without missing a step. So for a musical treat, be sure to catch "Songs for a New World" where the performers will dazzle you with their singing and dancing prowess. Kudos to Andrew and his hard working crew for delivering the goods with this wonderful show.