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EDINBURGH 2017 - BWW Review: SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD, Paradise In The Vault

EDINBURGH 2017 - BWW Review: SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD, Paradise In The Vault

EDINBURGH 2017 - BWW Review: SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD, Paradise In The VaultAcclaimed composer, lyricist and playwright Jason Robert Brown's first produced show, Songs for a New World, continues to be one of his most successful. Originally presented Off-Broadway in 1995, the theatrical song cycle received an acclaimed revival at London's St James Theatre in 2015, starring Cynthia Erivo and Jenna Russell.

An annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe can often include two or even three different productions of Songs for a New World. The 2003 production at the Pleasance Dome, which featured Broadway and West End actress Carmen Cusack amongst its six-strong cast, remains the most memorable and professional of these - a hard act to follow.

Moonstruck Theater Company presents this year's sole Fringe offering of Songs for a New World, and the Massachusetts group performs with enthusiasm and a clear love of Brown's work.

The first sequence, "The New World", needs to be a strong opener, and it certainly is here - effectively introducing the cast one by one. Following this, most subsequent songs are presented with confidence and clear diction, ably accompanied by a fluent pianist.

Tristyn Sepersky (Woman 1) is the most consistently reliable singer of the four. A Boston Conservatory student, her vocals are precise and a joy to listen to. The other three performers, Caroline Fonseca (Woman 2), Sean Watland (Man 1) and Matthew Sherman (Man 2) mainly cope well with Brown's complex score. Watland has a good tenor voice, whilst Fonseca and Sherman each have a suitable range of facial expressions.

"Just One Step", "King of the World" and the most commonly recorded song, "Stars And The Moon", are performed well, though some of the harmonies in "I'd Give It All For You" need work. "Christmas Lullaby", "Flying Home" and the "Hear My Song" finale are also portrayed effectively in the main, though at times in this production the audience is reminded that Brown's score is a challenge.

This staging of Songs for a New World is exactly one hour long, and it's a great shame that cuts have been made. The most notable omission is usually one of the highlights - "Surabaya Santa" - and those familiar with the song cycle may feel somewhat short-changed.

This production is enjoyable, and the cast give their all in a very small and minimalist space, but a full-length production (only around an extra 15 minutes) and slightly better vocals in places would push this production into the must-see category.

Songs for a New World runs at Paradise in The Vault, Merchant Street until August 27 at 7.20pm.

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From This Author Gregor Dickson

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