Archikulture Digest

Songs for a New World

Songs for a New World

By Mark Jason Brown

Directed by Steve MacKinnon

Musical direction by Spencer Croswell

Theatre Downtown, Orlando FL</strong>

After the show I polled people on the connection between these powerful but disparate songs. One person said they were all about “soaring,” another about “things that don’t work out” and everyone else agreed that they all seemed to stand alone. An early song has the rather open title of “On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492” and in it Mikhail Thompson sings about the hardships of a sea journey. The title implies Columbus, the subtext might allude to a later slaver, but the implication either way the singer is on the edge of a historical moment. But most of these songs seem to dwell on First World Problems like choosing the wrong lover or not getting the right stuff. Example: Sara Catherine Bates bemoans her well-to-do husband’s cheapness in “Just One Step.” Why can’t she get the same nice gifts his mistress does, and is it worth jumping out of a penthouse window for them? Shannon Bilo-Zepf plays the concerned mom in “I’m not Afraid of Anything.” She’s OK, but her children have fears, even if they are just the standard worries of the very young – darkness and swimming and isolation. Ms. Bates returns for the cabaret favorite “Stars and the Moon,” here she rejects all the loveable losers that enter her life and marries boring old Mr. Moneybags. Sure, there’s a yacht but the guy driving it bores her ears off. Wes Miller is the self-centered guy In “She Cries.” His problem is woman using tears to get what they want and rather than tough it out he leaves. All these are important in the moment, but are they earth shattering?

All of this angst is delivered with a high energy, full sound lead by Spencer Croswell’s tight four piece band. You can argue if this is a Cabaret, an Operetta or a Song Cycle – there isn’t much character development except that Mr. Barnes gets the really memorable songs. (The one I haven’t mentioned yet is “Surabaya Santa”, a nice parody of a Kurt Weill number.) Despite this nit the show offers a great entertainment values: all the songs rock, the singers are brilliant, and I was disappointed to see only about half a house on opening night. Even the set is noteworthy; it’s a soaring collection of levels with some classic Doug Huston floors that look great under the dark and dramatic lighting. Yes, this is a rarely done show, but once you see it you wonder “why?” and drag your friends back for another viewing. Oh, yeah, my take on the thread is “things are changing; you need to deal with it.” Your mileage may vary on that point, but the songs will take you far away.

For more information on Theatre Downtown, please visit http://www.theatredowntown.net


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