Jason Robert Brown’s earliest show, dating from 1995, is a song cycle loosely connected by the theme of coming to a decision.
Performed on stage last year at the London Palladium, the same cast of four (joined in one number by rising star Shem Omari James), now perform the musical from their own homes, providing an intimate experience which places the song delivery at centre stage.
This is my first time viewing Songs for a New World in any format, so I admit I had to seek out the back story behind each performance and watch a couple of times to get a sense of what I was watching.
Part revue, part song cycle, this show is both popular with small theatre groups due to a core cast of four and little required set dressing, despite being extremely complex vocally to perform.
Rachel John, Rachel Tucker, Cedric Neal and Ramin Karimloo clearly have a close affinity with the work, and in some cases engage the theatrical even though they are performing from their own kitchens and sofas.
Neal’s King of the World is one highlight, Karimloo’s She Cries another. There are numerous innovative ways for the four to sing together as a group or in different formations (a duet between Karimloo and John is given all the emotion it would have were they actually together in one room).
The current situation both politic and pandemic is also referred to: industry employees hold up cards with their roles on, empty theatres are shown.
This “new world” in which we find ourselves is as uncertain as that of the characters we have spent 90 minutes with here in this show. There’s a fight and a resilience in Brown’s songs that travels far beyond the quarter century since they were first collated.
This is not a story-led musical, not a typical piece that will leave you tapping your feet and humming stretches of the score. It is more of a slow burner, with lyrics that resonate with today.
Joshua Winstone and Séimí Campbell as MD and director, and Danny Kaan as editor, have created a piece which you can enjoy as a shout out to save the entertainment industry, or simply as a professionally-produced piece of digital theatre (albeit one for the Zoom generation).
Songs for a New World is available on stream.theatre from 21-28 February – book your ticket here.
LouReviews received complimentary access to review Songs for a New World.