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