“It’s about one moment
The moment before it all becomes clear
And in that one moment
You start to believe there’s nothing to fear
It’s about one second
And just when you’re on the verge of success
The sky starts to change
And the wind starts to blow
And you’re suddenly a stranger
There’s no explaining where you stand
And you didn’t know
That you sometimes have to go
Round an unexpected bend
And the road will end
In a new world” – A New World
Songs for a New World is a very different sort of musical than we are used to seeing. There is no script, there is no book, the characters exist for each individual song and then a new batch come along with the next one. There is no story arc, it is a ‘song-cycle’; 19 songs and song transitions linked by a single thread of an idea. An overriding theme, “One moment – hitting the wall and having to make a choice, of taking a stand, or turning around and going back”. This makes for a huge challenge to directors and performers. Each song a new character has to snap into the moment fully developed and ready to go. When the song ends the next character is ready to go.
The set, designed by Jacob Battista is the wooden deck of a ship which is dramatically and beautiful revealed (along with each soloist) in the opening number, The New World. The set works perfectly for this song but for most of the show it seemed out of place. A wonderful touch was the pin point lighting on seemingly random graffiti at the start of a song that gave us context, but there was always a nagging feeling “why are we on a boat?”. It was a minor issue overall as the set did look great and since the entire show is not set anywhere specific and dealing with individual moments in time… who cares where it is set.
Matthew Tunchon‘s lighting is impressive, every song is dramatically lit and lifts an already great looking set into vivid, visual moments.
Director Luke Joslin has worked very hard along with his performers to create a clear sense of time and place. Some of the songs were very clear and precise in how they related to the overall theme, some less so. There was one or two songs where myself and my companion could not quite find the link.
Lucy Bermingham’s musical direction masterfully deals with a very difficult musical score. It is a testament to Birmingham, Joslin and the four performers that such a tight production is the result of only a week of group rehearsals. With just a piano, drums and bass the sound is much fuller the you would expect.
This is a show all about the songs and without exceptional performers and singers it would be very bland. Fortunately Joslin has a assembled a stellar cast. Everyone of the cast members had clear characters, placement in the moment and stunning voices.
Cameron MacDonald created some lovely moments. his standout number would be She Cries and the heartbreaking I’d Give it All for You. Teagan Wouters gave us some lovely sensitive moments in songs like Christmas Lullaby and I’d Give It All For You and her reactions and emotional responses to Carter’s Stars and the Moon were beautiful. Christopher Scalzo‘s King Of The World was powerful and his duet with MacDonald, The River Won’t Flow was one of the highlights. When the cast joined him for Flying Home the power and emotion of
the song pulsed throughout the theatre. All the performers were standouts but Sophie Carter stood out just a little more. It was her sense of timing and placement that seemed a little clearer and more detailed. Surabaya Santa brought the house down. The comic timing along with the vocal and character work were stellar. Comic timing again gave an extra edge to the black comedy of Just One Step. Once again we were clear in moment and character. The Flagmaker had powerful emotion woven through it and Stars and the Moon was poignant and touched with regret.
Overall this is a powerful night of emotional and comic moments that have you laughing, crying and walking out of the theatre singing “A new world calls across the ocean, A new world calls across the sky, A new world whispers in the shadows, Time to fly, time to fly“
A New World runs at The Hayes Theatre until August 28.
Lynden Jones – Talking Arts
See my interview with Teagan Wouters and Christopher Scalzo here