Review: Songs For A New World

Songs For A New WorldIf you were to say the name Jason Robert Brown to the average theatre goer or Joe Public on the street, ‘Who?’, would be by far the most common response.

Indeed, even among “industry people”, the New York based singer/composer greatly divides opinon. Brave then is the decision of Edinburgh company Green Room to tackle Brown’s distinctly American song cycle, ‘Songs For A New World’.

As is standard with Brown’s work, the show features an incredibly technical piano score and some of the most intricate close harmonies of any piece of musical theatre. Both of these however are, thankfully, handled with great aplomb by show’s musical director Neil Metcalfe on the keyboard and the four strong cast – Paul Allison Thomson, as Man 1 and Emily Goad, as Woman 2, in particular.

The set consists of two ship style masts and four packing crates, each of which are use very cleverly to suggest various setting and objects in the course of the production – although, when using a church as a venue, the use of one of the sail masts to represent a crucifix, on which Man 1 is strung up, feels rather affected.

The cast regularly provide percussive accompaniments too which really serve to fill out and enrich the sound of the four fine voices and solo keyboard. There are definite peaks and troughs with the performances of the various musical numbers but, for me, the highs definitely outweighed the lows.

Particularly well handled is the song ‘Steam Train’ in which Man 1 declares himself to be ‘the future of basketball’ and repeatedly refers to himself as ‘fast & black’ – having cast a 5’9” white Scotsman in the role, this could have very easily descended into a parody of itself, but Thompson’s assured performance ensures no such issues arise.

Special mention, however, simply MUST be reserved for Emily Goad. Faced with subject matter ranging from a desperate woman threatening suicide to get the attention of her philandering husband, a woman faced with the adage ‘be careful what you wish for’, through to the frustrated confessions of a rather neglected Mrs. Claus (yes, as in Santa’s wife!) Goad simply oozes with charisma. Even when purely providing backing vocals to other songs or serving to rearrange the set, there is just something eminently watchable about her – my advice would be; look out for this one in the future, she deserves to really go places!


Songs For A New World by Green Room
St. Andrew’s and St. George’s West Church (Venue 111)

Show closed on August 17th

Blog Fringe Music

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