Broadway composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown’s song cycle Songs For a New World was first performed in NYC 21 years ago, and has been widely produced ever since. With a cast of 6 and minimal scenic/costume requirements it is an inexpensive show to produced. The Second Story Rep production has two casts alternating the show, unsurprisingly dubbed the Stars cast and the Moon cast, after the shows best known song “Stars and the Moon.” I saw the Moon cast featured, with the production’s assured director Adam Minton playing Man 2. Minton and his 3 cast-mates really bit into each of their songs with strong vocals and assured acting.
Sadly, the early Jason Robert Brown material only has so many gold nuggets in its score. The rest run from fair to forgettable, plus a few that seem plainly out of place. JRB’s large fan club might disagree on that assessment. But I will focus here on the songs and renditions that most impressed me. “I’m Not Afraid Of Anything” sung by Candace Larson’s Woman 1 is tender heartbreaker that allows the actress to show off her rich range of emotions and warm, rich voice., and her “Christmas Lullaby is simply glittering. Woman 2 Rachel Brinn mines the urban anxiety that drives one to the brink of suicide, in the powerful “Just One Step” as well as in the aforementioned “The Stars and the Moon”. Man 2 Minton shows off a powerful vocal instrument and makes good acting choices on “She Cries.” And Michael Krenning as Man 1 is a standout on several numbers including “Steam Train” and “Flying Home.” Krenning’s exceptional vocal range and unforced expressiveness make him a young talent to watch for.
Ms. Larson and Mr. Minton do very well by two notable duets “I’d Give it All for You” and “The World Was Dancing.” Ms. Brinn knows exactly how to earn the laughs in a Kurt Weill sendup “Surabaya Santa” which sadly is an ill-fitting number in the show, as is “On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492” despite Mr, Krenning’s earnest rendition of It. The whole company sounds great together on the recurring title song. However, an end of the show appearance and vocal by the Stars cast seemed both awkward and unnecessary.
Musical Direction by Greg Smith is of a high-order, Laurie Roberts’ costumes are fetching and the tech team known as the squolf matched their usual top-notch standard on the set, sound and lighting designs. As the show itself is rather short, cast member from the Stars cast added a ostensible 3rd act for those who wanted to partake.
Songs For a New World at Second Story Rep in the Redmond Town Center concludes its run with 8 pm shows September 1-3 and a 2 pm matinee on September 4. For tickets and more call 425-881-6777 or go to secondstoryrep.org