Songs for a New World (Review): Harvest Rain

With a few quibbles, I really enjoyed my first Harvest Rain-produced musical, Songs for a New World (1995) by Tony award winning composer Jason Robert Brown, directed by Tim O’Connor.  Four principal singers (Angela Harding, Luke Kennedy, Naomi Price and Luke Venables) are backed by a five piece band (Daniel Gibney, Daniel Grindrod, Marcus Parente, Jack Kelly and Matlohn Drew) and an acting ensemble of twelve – Harvest Rain’s interns getting some valuable on the job training.  The JWCoCA studio is a perfect space for small, ‘chamber musicals,’ and I fantasised as I drove home about how great it would be if Brisbane had a permanent small space dedicated to this kind of work, perhaps linked or associated in some way to music theatre training institutions around the state.  Anyway …

Songs for a New World is a play about relationships, and one of the more fragile of human emotions: hope.  It’s in the ‘small’ show musical class; the revue-style format is more of a mood piece, an essay as opposed to the full-blooded narrative book of most musicals, at least the blockbusters that many have come to associate with the American musical theatre.  Like others before and since, this musical work doesn’t rely for its success on big production values, but on the integrity and quality of the ideas, its music, and on the ability of a production to engage with the piece.  The play focusses on individual stories drawn from a cross-section of American society, people at decisive moments in their lives.  As a song-cycle, the work is also very much a musical-theatre actors’ piece, a meditation that explores a life’s realities set against its aspirations. Continue reading Songs for a New World (Review): Harvest Rain

In praise of (much) older (women) actors …

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for at least a month. Given we’re in the International Women’s Day time-zone, it seemed appropriate to get my thoughts down at last.

I was inspired by a couple of performances I saw in NYC in late January: Stockard Channing in Pal Joey (among other things a master class in how to use lyrics in a song) and Estelle Parsons in August: Osage County * (high octane performance, subtle, multi-layered, and done eight times a week).

I came home to find Jane Fonda blogging her rehearsals and now performances in Moises Kaufmann’s 33 Variations, her first Broadway play in 45 years. She’s also using Twitter to keep in touch – she’s @janefonda, and yes we follow each other. She’s open, honest, and writes well. She started blogging in January because she wanted to see whether an old dog could learn new tricks. Her words.

Now this morning I see that Margaret Tyzack whom I saw in a revival of The Chalk Garden last summer in London at the Donmar has walked away with a best actress award in the Olivers. That matriarchal performance was also extraordinarily captivating.

OK, here’s the thing that gives me great hope for my own future as an actor: Stockard is the youngest at 64, Jane is 71, Margaret 77, and Estelle 81. How’s that!

Ladies, you are an inspiration. We salute and thank you.

* August: Osage County by Tracy Letts (Pulitzer Prize and Tony Winner) is another play with three sisters. I wrote about this a while back. What is it about three sisters in drama – anyone?