In an explosive Monumental Theater style, the young troupe tackles songs for a new world by Jason Robert Brown with fierce energy and verve. They are amazing.
A young woman walks down an aisle and enters a room where three others are gathered in a circle, in a small support group where they share their stories. A wall hanging says “Every day you have the choice to be”. No one is identified by name, and instead the musical numbers and interludes provide all the context you need to understand their stories.
The scenes are so dynamic that for once I was grateful the show was on the air so I could periodically pause and breathe, because it’s literally breathtaking. The first full issue, “A New World”, introduces the theme and highlights everyone. The voices just rise. Elvie Ellis as Man 3 adds an interlude, “Stop, Take a Look,” which veers into a gospel-soaked beat that was so endearing and heartfelt I had to stop myself from crying out loud. “Wait, this is just the beginning, girl,” I had to chide myself. “Hold on, there’s still a whole show to be done!” songs for a new world is proof that no matter what conditions are thrown at them, the dang show will go onm
These top performers have been seen in numerous productions across the city and make fabulously good music together. Kylie Clare Smith’s character is cautious as she first enters the room and tells her story with a vocal range that begins softly and then crescendos to explosive expressions. Her precious ballads “I’m Not Afraid of Anything” and “Mother Mary” are beautiful and courageous.
Ellis brings down the house with everything he touches, from the opening montage to his hit “You Don’t Know Me, But You Will,” where he’s ready to run the race of his life with athleticism and grace to the hilt. Ryan Burke’s character is the guilt-ridden husband and father who abandoned his family and his bored daughter with painful tenderness. He conveys his anguish through small touching movements – when he quickly touches his ring finger, you can feel the phantom ring.
Sarah Anne Sillers has Woman 2’s most distinctive character, and she attacks her stages and sings her songs with a fearlessness that’s slated for Broadway when it opens. Her theatrical flair shines through as the neglected wife of a high income in “Just One Step” and a hilariously raucous number where she berates St. Nick himself for neglecting her as Missus.
The video stream is lavishly crafted with scenes filmed in all sorts of locations with exquisite touches that leave you wanting more, more! The characters will start out in their own places, and just as you’re settling into the meeting room, they’re dancing in an open field, or suited for running, or even on a pier by the water. Camera shots come from everywhere, even for a split second from inside a well-stocked and lit fridge!
And then there is the music. Jason Robert Brown’s bouncy melodies and lyrics are captivating and go straight to the heart and soul. The segments are piercingly beautiful, dynamic and powerful all at once – it does it all. The dream team of director Megan Bunn, musical director Marika Countouris and choreographer David Singleton captures the messages of all the songs and weaves them into an incredible journey that is sometimes inner and other times outwardly exuberant. The show features the largest orchestra of any Monumental project to date; with funky strings and percussion, they absolutely rock. It’s an incredible feat that has to be seen to be believed.
“songs for a new world is about how growth is constant, but not always linear – it’s the mess of being human,” Director Bunn wrote in the program. “After the last year of isolation, reflection and reckoning, the potential for compassion and community present in the stories of these characters resonates with us more than ever.”
For those who have heard of the Monumental Theater and are wondering why they won so many accolades, accolades and awards in their relatively young years, here’s a chance to find out for yourself. songs for a new world is not to be missed.
Operating time: 90 minutes
EXPANDED: songs for a new world stream on demand until August 31, 2021. Tickets are available in line.
Lyrics and music by Jason Robert Brown
Cast: Kylie Clare Smith (Female 1), Elvie Ellis (Male 1), Sarah Anne Sillers (Female 2), Ryan Burke (Male 2)
Director: Megan Bunn
Musical Director: Marika Cotouris
Choreographer: David Singleton
Costumes: Jeannette Christensen
Production Manager: Thomas Nagata
Sound Engineer: Draper Carter
Sound engineer and sound design: Alec Green
Videographer, cinematographer and editor of Hand Me Down Films: Zack Gross
Nine-piece orchestra, led by Countouris (piano): string section including Jeff Thurston (violin), Sonia Garcia-Lee (violin), Andrew Weaver (viola) and Aron Rider (cello). Rhythm section composed of Matt Horanzy (guitar), Jonas Creason (bass), Sam Carolla (drums) and Marty Risemberg (percussion).
SEE ALSO: Foursome will sing Monumental’s “Songs for a New World”