BWW Review: SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD at Arizona Regional Theatre
Straight-forward, well-acted, and beautifully sung, Songs for a New World at Arizona Regional Theatre is wonderful. The set is simple, but the actors use the space well. The cast is made up of four singers, two men and two women, with a small band on stage which creates a unique ambiance. Each song is presented with sincerity - sometimes humor - and a depth that is quintessential to Jason Robert Brown.
The company is small, but their voices soar to the rafters. When all four actors are on stage, there is an electricity that flows through the theater. The songs are beautiful and their voices blend perfectly to create the illusion that there are more than four voices singing.
As Woman 1, Xandra Gunnell, is lovely. She has a fantastic singing voice and excellent emotional depth. Her voice blends well with the other singers, but she has no trouble commanding the solos. "I'm Not Afraid of Anything" is especially poignant and Gunnell rises to the occasion on every song she sings.
Woman 2 is played by Alicia Ferrin. She provides much of the comedic relief with "Just One Step" and "Surabaya Santa" in which she displays a convincing German accent, but she also believably presents melancholy and grief.
Nathan Sheppard as Man 1 presents the plight of youth, poor decisions, duty, and sacrifice. His voice soars as he sings, "Flying Home" which leaves the audience in awe. Sheppard inhabits each character he presents which allows the audience to feel the honesty of his performance.
"She Cries" is one of the highlights of the show. Marvelously sung by Darren Friedman, the song perfectly showcases the grandeur and the excruciating reality of love. Friedman has a natural stage presence and the songs sit perfectly in his register.
Directed by CJ O'Hara, who also provided the music direction, Songs for a New World is a delight. Each song presents a different aspect of the human condition which allows the audience to reflect on what makes us human and that in the end, "we'll be fine".
Photo provided courtesy of Arizona Regional Theatre.