BWW Reviews: The Eklektix Theatre Company's SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD is a Charismatic Concert
In casting the production, Director and Music Director Eduardo Guzman opted for eight voices. While just producing this show is a unique approach in many aspects, casting eight singers is a distinctive spin that ETC is putting on their production. A cast of four did the original performance of the music, but in doubling the voices, Eduardo Guzman is able to flesh out and emphasize some of the more stirring harmonies and chords. Also, he is able to play with the easily overlooked characters and through stories that exist in the piece. Essentially, eight singers allows for Jason Robert Brown's lyrics to become even more accessible and resonate on an even deeper level for the audience.
The notion of characters and plot is made even more apparent in Isabelle Dom's inventive musical staging and choreography. She cleverly uses repeated and similar stage pictures to tie numbers together, making it easier to grasp which songs work together to create intriguing narratives. Moreover, Isabelle Dom's staging and choreography aids in heightening the affect of the music without ever being too much. She only has movement where movement improves the experience for the audience. My favorite images that she creates are the various circling techniques utilized in numbers sung by the couple that is trepidatious about getting married (especially during "The World Was Dancing"), the cross that is made during "On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492," the repetition of the cross shape, albeit at a different angle, during "Flying Home," and the emotionally poignant staging of "The Flagmaker, 1775."
Each of the eight members of the cast is talented and carries their own weight in the performance. To say that learning this piece is hard and time consuming is an understatement. However, from beginning to end, it is apparent that every member of this cast has dedicated themselves to the impressively daedal work by Jason Robert Brown. Each note is vocalized with thoughtful care. For me, having recently seen a production with more seasoned talent, the only drawback was that many of these voices are still so young that they lack some of the maturity that I heard in the piece when I first experienced it. In spite of this, this cast still makes profound statements as they bring life to the score, letting audiences experience the music and lyrics in a fashion that is decidedly youthful and zealously energetic.
Furthermore, there are many vocal elements of the show that I absolutely adored. Eduardo Guzman took a gigantic risk having a female sing the solo in "On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492," and it pays off beautifully. Crystal Mata's rendition is appropriately soulful, and she adds delicious gravity to the number. Leslie Lenert gorgeously and emotively sings "I'm Not Afraid of Anything." Also in the soulful vein, Eric Briggs and Robert Pimentel bring a sassy attitude to and are clearly having fun with the catchy and thought provoking number "The River Won't Flow." Irena Quijas' sweetly sung "Stars and the Moon" and "Christmas Lullaby" are lovely. Kyle Crawford has resounding stage presence and skillfully sings "The World Was Dancing." Completely giving into the absurd, brash character and having a blast with it, Sarah Patterson's rendition of "Surabaya-Santa" is both charming and funny. "I'd Give It All for You," one of my top two favorite performances of the evening, is masterfully touching as performed by Kyle Crawford and Leslie Lenert. Crystal Mata's spin on "The Flagmaker, 1775" is also one of my top two favorite performances of the evening, as she effortlessly brings out the emotionality of the piece, allowing the number to start so quietly and grow into something astounding. Jeff Slater gives a delightfully gospel flair to "Flying Home." The whole company is stupendous on "Hear My Song," making it the perfect finale to a striking evening of vocal performance.