Songs for a New World
by Carl F. Gauze
Another small glimmer of light crept out from under the Covid curtain as Central Florida Community Arts put up a stripped down Songs for a New World. This song cycle marked Jason Robert Brown’s (Parade, Last Five Years, Bridges of Madison County) first appearance on the Great White Way. This collection very loosely follows four singers as time progress from the discovery of the new world by Columbus to today’s modern world. We begin with “On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492” (Lead by Aladin “A.J.” Demps) and ends with “‘Hear My Song” sung by the entire company. There’s no strong effort to generate a story arc, but there are some fine musical pieces in this show. “Stars and the Moon” (Megan K. Hill) resonated most stirringly; here a woman turns down two poor suitors and settles for a rich man but an ultimately empty life. There’s no saying Guy One or Guy Two would have turned out better, but we all love to suffer from “If only-its.” Another strong piece “Steam Train” a young man (Aladin “A.J.” Demps) proudly announces his plan to become a basketball star, only to fade back to a more realistic view of what his surroundings offer as a future.
In “Surabaya Santa” Sara Anne Mae parodied Kurt Weill as Mrs. Clause complained bitterly about her marriage. It almost sounds like there’s no point in Santa returning home after this year’s run but maybe he can set up a new operation at the South Pole. As all this sometimes hard to decipher personal angst washes across the stage. Pianist Dane Becker furiously flips pages and keeps up with the nonstop musical onslaught. Clever lighting makes up the lack of risers, and we are all tested for fever before entry. This was a very exclusive show, barely a half dozen of us braved the pandemic for this afternoon of wonderful music.