Review: Songs For A New World; The Appeal Theatre Group; Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich; until Saturday April 16
Songs For A New World; The Appeal Theatre Group; Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich; until Saturday April 16
Songs For A New World is a difficult piece to like. One of the merits of a musical is that, when a song comes along that you like less, at least you know it’s carrying the narrative forward.
With this thematic musical, written by Jason Robert Brown, there is no story, so each song must carry its own. The Appeal Theatre Group has succeeded in delivering each of these songs with occasional aplomb.
This 1995 off-Broadway musical is an optimistic collection of songs describing a particularly American sense of hope at the turning points of life. These hope-filled and sometimes self-deluding vignettes are told through an eclectic mix of mainly piano-led songs, with gospel, jazz and classical influences.
Appeal’s female singers overshadowed their emotionally-detached counterparts though I suspect the generally flat, but very competent, male performances will liven up once first night nerves are put aside.
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Jan Needle, singing two comic songs - One Step and Stars and the Moon, stood out for me with charismatic, expressive performances in both. Clare Dungey performed well, bringing a warm and vulnerable pathos to I’m not afraid of anything. Also noteworthy were Helen Wheatley and Duncan Broatch dueting in I’d Give it All for You. The surprise hit of the night came from Shelly Clempson’s Marlene Dietrich-come-’Sparks’ performance of Surabaya Santa, as this German Mrs Claus berates her husband from the North Pole.
That performance, and the others cited, made the evening worthwhile. Songs For A New World however didn’t work for me. I think this abstract musical, with two Christmas songs half way through, is frankly half baked. If you like great songs delivered well see this production by the Appeal Theatre Company. If you want a musical look forward to their next production.
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