Category Archives: Songs for a New World

Saying goodbye to summer

Over the last month, there’s been so much theatre to see and so little time.  And now it all seems to be ending.  The cheeky SHINE: A Burlesque Musical finished its two-week run at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island last weekend and we also bade adieu to the toe-tapping Thoroughly Modern Millie and Annie at Theatre Under the Stars.

At the Arts Club, the Altar Boyz are spritzing their hair with product for the last time and at Pacific Theatre, the good folks from Not Another Musical Co-op are singing the last notes of Songs For A New World this weekend.     Across the water, at the Presentation House Theatre in North Vancouver, comes the final curtain call for the newest object of my affection, Fighting Chance’s Rent.

Fighting Chance Production's cast of Rent; Clockwise from top left, Craig Decarlo, Christine Quintana, Jacqueline Breakwell, Anton Lipovetsky, Nick Fontaine and Cesar Erba.

Fighting Chance Production's cast of Rent; Clockwise from top left, Craig Decarlo, Christine Quintana, Jacqueline Breakwell, Anton Lipovetsky, Nick Fontaine and Cesar Erba.

I have a rather shameful admission to make . . .  I’ve never been a giant Rent fan.  Nor a Rent fan of any other size, for that matter.  It stems from a certain stubbornness that I possess when it comes to being told what to do or what to like.  In fact, I have an aversion to jumping on to bandwagons of all kinds.  It’s that contrary quality that made me disregard the film version and pooh-pooh the various Rent soundtracks.

But now, I’ve drunk the Kool-aid and have been totally taken in by Rent.  I’ve seen it three times and would have seen it again, if it hadn’t kept selling out.

Which brings us back to the end of the summer season and the sudden onset of my musical-theatre withdrawal blues.  My current state of despair is somewhat tempered by the knowledge that the fall musical season will soon be upon us.  Though, truth be told, I’m not overly enthused by this.  I’ve seen all of these latest summer shows twice and sometimes more and they’ve become familiar, like friends.  And it’s so hard to say goodbye.

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Tony winner Jason Robert Brown performing in Vancouver

I have some amazing breaking news for all Vancouver musical-theatre fans and performers.  Tony Award winning composer Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Last Five Years) will be in attendance for the Friday, August 21st showing of Songs For A New World (click here for my review) at Pacific Theatre and will also be performing a post-show concert.

For Friday the 21st only, tickets will be $65 all-inclusive; don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity!

Songs For A New World (Review)

Sometimes less really is more.  Songs For A New World, presented by Not Another Musical Co-op, is an extremely minimalist production.  It’s a small four-person cast, there is little in the way of a set, and the stories told on stage are often left up to the interpretations of the audience.  That simplicity allows the actors and Jason Robert Brown’s music and lyrics (Parade, The Last Five Years) to soar, and they do.

Although there is no plot, the show is bound together with overarching and entwining themes, and while the actors do not play the same characters throughout the show, they do develop and grow.  The complexities of the music and of the human experience are always at the forefront and make for a captivating experience.

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Jennifer Neumann, Jonathan Winsby, Daren Herbert and Alison MacDonald; the cast of Songs For A New World

The cast have all been seen in recent Vancouver productions.  Daren Herbert (Man 1) and Jennifer Neumann (Woman 1) played Richie and Maggie respectively in Royal City’s A Chorus Line in the spring.  Neumann also shared the stage with Alison MacDonald (Woman 2) and Jonathan Winsby (Man 2) in the recent Arts Club smash hit Les Misérables.

Herbert’s softer falsetto contrasts beautifully with Winsby’s powerful baritone and both Neumann and MacDonald are in equally fine form vocally.  Each one has the chance shows off in their solos and yet still come together to complement each other in the many harmonies.

The ever-charismatic Jonathan Winsby demonstrates his prowess as a leading man in both “The World Was Dancing” and “She Cries.”  Jennifer Neumann is fearless yet guarded in “I’m Not Afraid;” then she lets loose in her duet with Winsby, “I’d Give it All For You.”

Alison MacDonald is a bundle of neuroses threatening to jump out of an apartment window in “Just One Step” and then is a fierce and romantically-frustrated Mrs. Claus in “Surabaya Santa.”  Daren Herbert shows off in “Steam Train” and then is a dynamo of raw emotion in “King of the World.”

I find something new in Brown’s score on each and every listen, but my favourite has always been the oft-recorded “Stars and the Moon.”  Alison MacDonald embraces the song with open arms and hits all the right notes, emotionally and musically.

The ubiquitous and multi-talented Sara-Jeanne Hosie co-directs and co-choreographs with Shane Snow.  Their synchronised choreography worked well in “The Steam Train” but in other numbers, was far too distracting.  Brown’s score is piano-centric and the three piece band receives almost as much attention as the actors.  Pianist Sean Bayntun, percussionist Sam Hutchison and bassist Hugh Macdonald make beautiful music together.

Songs For A New World is a work of art and should be contemplated and savoured.  Come for both the amazing talent and the sumptuous score and you won’t be disappointed.

Songs For A New World is playing August 12th – 29th, 2009 at Pacific Theatre, located at 1440 West 12th Avenue. The show runs Wednesday – Saturday at 8pm, with matinees on August 22nd and 29th at 2pm.  Tickets are available online or by calling 604-684-2787.

Songs For A New World; Opening Week

After the success of last summer’s Ovation award-winning The World Goes ‘Round, some of its production decided to try their luck again.  Songs for a New World has been described as not fully a musical but something more than a song cycle.  While I’ve never seen it performed, I have heard most of its songs, as many have become cabaret-style standards.  Composer Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Last Five Years) has written some beautiful music and I can’t wait to see it performed by some of our extremely bright local talents.

Not Another Musical Co-op presents Songs for a New World starring Daren Herbert (A Chorus Line, RCMT), Alison MacDonald (Les Misérables, Arts Club), Jennifer Neumann (A Chorus Line, RCMT) and Jonathan Winsby (Les Misérables, Arts Club).  Directed by Shane Snow and Sara-Jeanne Hosie and musical direction by Sean Bayntun, the show runs August 12th – 29th, 2009, Wed. to Sat. at 8PM, with matinees August 22nd and 29th at 2PM. All performances are at Pacific Theatre, 12th and Hemlock. Tickets are available online or by calling 604.684.2787.

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