Songs For a New World
A contemporary song-cycle musical in 2 Acts: Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.
At age twenty-five songwriter Jason Robert Brown pieced together sixteen songs that he had written for other various projects, and director Daisy Prince found a common theme to create a show from all the songs. The theme is the moment of a decision, the point at which you transition from the old to the new. The change may be geographical, emotional, professional or marital but things are different than they were before. The result is neither musical play nor revue, it is closer to a theatrical song cycle, a very theatrical song cycle.
Brown writes intensely personal, highly dramatic songs. They range from country-ish story songs to gospel tinged wails and from pop coloured romps to solo pieces of either concentrated personal revelation or slightly offbeat comedy. There’s a pregnant woman’s expression of wonder at creation, the story of a would-be basketball star aching to escape the dead-end world of failure, the lament of a couple who broke up only to find their separate ways led nowhere, and even the hopes and fears for the future that weigh heavily on the explorers sailing to find a new world in 1492 and the flagmaker creating the banner for a new nation in 1775. Each song is musically distinctive and dramatically effective.
All company members on stage deliver a sung prologue to prepare the audience for what this musical is all about. A new World. Their hopes and dreams, fears and failures conjure up images of explorers setting out to find new lands.
The first snapshot of the American experience brings us onboard a 16th century ship as the passengers plead to the Lord to give them the strength to survive the journey. Just as their struggle becomes too much to bear, the passengers find renewed hope of a better life.
We next see a woman standing on the window ledge of her New York penthouse, carrying on with grievances about her husband, Murray. As a crowd gathers below, she threatens to step off the ledge and take her own life. She is left with nothing but the fear of taking one step to a new and genuinely better life.
A young, adventurous mother & wife appears. She is seemingly ready for all of life’s challenges and questions the fears of her children, parents, and husband. We see that her strength is perhaps the very thing keeping a wall between her and the people she loves.
We move from expectations of love to expectations of money. Two men wrestle with the dream of rewards that hard work should promise. Wealth flows easily for some, but others aren’t as lucky.
Elsewhere, a woman who married very well looks back on the path she chose. She knew wonderful men willing to give her laughter, love, companionship, adventure, and passion, but she chose money over everything else. She now regrets the misguided priorities of her youth.
In a different type of frustrating relationship, a man goes through many ups and downs with the woman he loves. She lies and he heads out the door, but he finds himself coming back to her. Though manipulative, her tears are a window to the woman he fell in love with.
Meanwhile, in the Bronx, a determined young man dreams of life as a famous basketball star. His sadness, anger, and passion have ignited a fire in him to realize the fantasy of his own new world.
Act Two opens with a man struggling to reconcile his father’s failure in a risky business venture with his education and the commitment he’s made to his fiancée, Amy. His continual fear of failure makes him unable to choose what he truly wants.
Mrs. Claus appears. It seems being married to Santa Claus proves to be too much or, in her case, not enough. She loves, wants and needs him, but just can’t take another Christmas alone. With a flourish and a few choice words, she slams the door on their relationship for good.
Next, a woman a bit less ferocious than Mrs. Claus looks to her faith to lift her up while contemplating her life and soul. She feels blessed and assured that her life will have meaning in the grand design of the world.
But faith is shaken when we meet a desperate man in a prison cell, crying foul of his accused sins. He does not understand why he is there and questions the good he was trying to do.
A separated couple appears on stage. Now as they are reunited, they look back and understand they ran away out of fear of love. Though the adventures were thrilling, they realize they are home with each other at last.
The mother of an American Revolutionary soldier anxiously awaits the end of the brutal war with no other way to manage her worry and frustration than to sew a flag. Echoes of the flagmaker linger as a young man hears the call of angels who will accompany him where he belongs.
In the finale, we discover that our hopes and dreams will continue to help light the way to a new world.
- The New World
- On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship 1492
- Just One Step
- I’m Not Afraid of Anything
- The River Won’t Flow
- Stars and the Moon
- She Cries
- The Steam Train
- The World Was Dancing
- Surabaya Santa
- Christmas Lullaby
- King of the World
- I’d Give It All For You
- Flagmaker 1775
- Flying Home
- Hear My Song