Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cincinnati

Songs for a New World

It is always refreshing to hear when a local theater company decides to produce a newer, modern musical theater piece, rather than safe, traditional shows such as Oklahoma or Hello Dolly. IF Theatre Collective is one of Cincinnati's newer theater companies and is currently presenting the regional premiere of one such show, Songs For A New World.

Songs For A New World is a modern musical revue that chronicles the wonder, excitement, and sometimes despair associated with discovery. Whether the discovery is that of monumental worldwide significance, such as Columbus's journey to the Americas, or of a personal understanding of one's self, it is an awareness of a new world filled with opportunities and limitations. Composer/Lyricist Jason Robert Brown, a recent Tony Award Winner for his Broadway musical Parade, has provided a wide array of tuneful songs that capture both the power and vulnerability of newly found knowledge. The lyrics are intricate and emotional, and the music is challenging and uplifting. The show is Mr. Brown's expression of his own exploration for understanding and was completed when he was only 26 years old. He has captured the true sense of the journey for meaning that so many members of his generation have taken and the result is a captivating piece of musical theater.

The four-member ensemble consisting of Eric Bricking, Shannon Mullane Kramer, Melissa Manni, and Isaac B. Turner is up to the task of this challenging score with very few problems. The show is sung through and provides chances for each cast member to shine individually, and in tandem with others. In addition to being strong singers, each performer also demonstrates fine acting ability with depth and emotion. The moments that call for humor and a comedic touch are delivered effectively also.

Benjamin Mosse has made some risky choices as Director, and most of them pay off quite well. He has done a fine job of capturing the exuberance and fear of discovery as Mr. Brown intended. The production design, by Rachel Fenner, is appropriately simple with only a few props and chairs serving as the set. High praise is also given for the subtle and creative lighting design by Joe Lovell. Jonathan Kelly serves as musical director and effectively leads a wonderful band consisting of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music musicians.

IF Theatre Collective has produced a worthy presentation of this challenging modern musical revue. Songs For A New World is presented through January 20, 2001, at the University YMCA Gothic Ballroom. For reservations, please call (513) 961-7434. Songs For A New World premiered at the WPA in New York City in 1995 and the cast recording of this show is available at record stores.

-- Scott Cain

Also see the current Cincinnati Area Theatre Schedule

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