Songs For a New World

Sun 1st July – Mon 27th August 2012


Julia Chapman

at 08:10 on 6th Aug 2012



Songs for a New World is misleadingly advertised as a musical, while it is, in fact, a series of unrelated songs. Though not written by the performers, the musical had a distinctly amateur feel to it, and was a rather terrible choice of show.

Irrespective of the writing itself, the performances were quite timid. The first song gave hope, both in its lyrics and its prospect for the rest of the musical. Sadly, the strength of Songs for a New World was in its opening, and both the quality of the music and the energy of the performance went downhill from there.

The choreography was one of the show’s greatest flaws. A boring musical can be made livelier with some exciting dance. However, they did little more than move from standing to sitting, sometimes leaving only to reappear onstage arbitrarily.

The lack of plot meant that Songs for a New World was nothing more than a series of insipid songs with next to no characterisation. The few songs that did make a character clear were absolutely the highlights, with 'Just One Step' as the most interesting number as it picked up the tempo and showed us a woman contemplating suicide. However, it says something about a show when a song about suicide is the most appealing.

Lack of characterisation also made it nigh on impossible to determine that the performers were actually playing different people in each song. My mind, desperate for some sort of storyline, made the assumption that each performer’s return to the stage was a continuation of the story from their last song. No such luck.

On the whole, the performers were better actors than they were singers. The group should have played to their forte and chosen a play instead of a pseudo-musical. Though some of the music wasn’t terrible, and the pianist was very good, the musical was too dull to be pulled off by even great performers, never mind the rather reserved ones on offer. Lizzie Nuttall was perhaps the most interesting performer and was bolstered by the luck of more diverse characters than the others were granted.

Another big issue in Songs for a New World was the lack of a coherent overriding principle that was addressed in the blurb. The flyer promised stories of America, but few details were added to give any geographical specificity. Never mind a new world, the performers just need a new musical. Maybe a play, actually.


Oliver Arnoldi

at 08:34 on 6th Aug 2012



If ever you wanted a template for how not to construct a musical, then Jason Robert Brown’s ‘Songs For a New World’ would be it. Musicals that contain almost no dialogue are hard to come by, usually because trying to pick up a story line for ninety minutes by listening to a series of seventeen of eighteen songs can firstly, be quite hard, and secondly, become exceedingly boring unless the songs are any good. The songs were not good, and even more unfortunately, there was no continuous storyline. Instead, the ‘plot’ oscillates between unrelated and interrelated people in the United States. Each sings about their daily trials, tribulations, and once in a while sings about how they want to change, how they are changing, and finally climaxing in true happiness by the time the curtain falls.

That said, the students from York have given themselves a very challenging task in attempting to put on a musical that in many ways does not make sense. They are four talented singers, but by the time the ninety minutes of pure singing has elapsed, it is clear that their voices are tired (something that was not aided in any way by the very hot conditions of the C Venue performance space).

It is hard to sum up my feelings to a musical that you do not really understand, but to quote Man 2, “You don’t know me, but you will”. It is with certainty that I say this statement is false. His name, background and point in this work are a mystery, and so it seems, is the musical itself. The cast is clearly a capable one but the material itself doesn't live up to their talent.


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