BWW Review: SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD at Mind's Eye Theatre Company
Songs for a New World is a small intimate chamber musical loved by a small but mighty fan base that has launched it into the cult favorite that it is today. Any musical theatre fan worth their salt knows of the great Jason Robert Brown, who's work is revered and cherished by many, but before Parade and The Bridges of Madison County, Songs for a New World premiered off-broadway in 1995. While its initial run was short, a well made cast album gained its popularity as Jason Robert Brown gained his. Today the musical is a staple in musical theatre programs in colleges across the country, but it's very seldom a community theatre chooses to take it on, mainly because the vocal requirements of the show are difficult to say the least.
Here Mind's Eye Theatre Company decided to step up to the plate with Mandy Kramer at its helm. She has embraced the chamber aspect of the show and effectively uses the small but versatile stage at The Bard's Town. While her blocking choices are limited, her real strength as a director shines through in the individual moments she has helped each of her performers create.
The cast is made up of four incredibly talented performers, who throughout the show find ways to match each other in musicality as well as emotional beats. While the solo moments are to die for, when all four of them sing together it's downright goosebump inducing in the best possible way.
Charity Means is taking on the role(s) known as Woman 1. As the soprano of the group her voice is rich and light in a way that always makes you lean in. She shines brightest during her Act One solo "I'm Not Afraid of Anything" and her Act 2 ballad, "Christmas Lullaby". The later brought tears to my eyes.
Jess Harris Stiller is taking on the roles known as Woman 2. The thing that is so wonderful about her is her effortless ability to make you laugh one minute, then turn around and make you feel all the feels the next. Her comedic chops are fully on display for the outlandish characters portrayed in "Just One Step" and "Surabaya-Santa", but she manages to wear her heart on her sleeve for the more dramatic numbers "Stars and the Moon" and "The Flagmaker, 1775". She is truly a revelation here and manages to command you're attention every time she takes the stage.
Paul Stiller does a great job taking on one of the less show-y roles known as Man 2. Man 2's songs are honestly the most Jason Robert Brown sounding of the bunch, which is a good thing, but they all sound very similar. Even so, he manages to make an event of "She Cries" towards the end of Act One, showing amazing depth and catharsis.
Finally we have Devin Jewrell as Man 1. The score for this track is absolutely bonkers. The range required is almost inhuman and Jewrell does it almost effortlessly. His voice soars during the group numbers, and in his solo moments he leans into the numbers completely.
To put it bluntly, this show isn't a musical, but more self defined as a song cycle. It isn't liner and nothing is related, but instead dips into the lives of people who all at once are very similar and very different from ourselves. It is humanity reflected, and the picture we see in the mirror is messy, funny, heartbreaking, and wonderful. This show has an all too short run, and I cannot urge you enough to get a ticket to one of the final two performances. It's very rare to see this show done at all, let alone done so expertly.
SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD
Now - September 29
The Bard's Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205