Once again Sue in the Stalls is at the ever delightful The Space in London’s Docklands, this time for a musical event – Jason Robert Brown’s ‘Songs for a New World‘.
A constant stream of exciting and occasionally moving melodies is something of a hallmark of Jason Robert Brown’s work, and ‘Songs for a New World’ is no exception. With limited plot, and more of an overarching sentiment holding the pieces together, the cast at The Space had to really emote throughout each individual performance, whilst gelling seamlessly as a team and holding the 90-minutes plus interval production together. No mean feat.
The individual performances of Rosie Cumber, Meesha Turner, George Gehm and Oliver Metcalfe were thought provoking and emotional. The strength of their solo voices was amplified when together they sang, filling the room. They were beautifully accompanied by the band under the Musical Director, Sally Goodworth, with a stand-out performer on the drums, seeming to really hold the show tightly together.
Cumber, Turner, Gehm and Metcalfe are faced with the potentially daunting task of jumping between emotions for each song they perform. At times they are called upon to be bold and daring, brash and callous, moody and reserved or even just a silent partner during someone else’s turn in the spotlight. The dedication and talent of each performer meant that these transitions rarely felt uneven, and their distinct characters were easy to spot. The basic and static set was used inventively at times, and projection added a sense of depth and variety to the otherwise bland stage.
Stand out numbers include Meesha Turner as a seductive yet scornful Mrs Claus in “Surabaya-Santa”. This song really gave Turner the opportunity to show off the rich tone of her vocals, particularly in the lower end of her range which is her clear strength. “She Cries” offered a more sensitive performance, whilst “The River Won’t Flow” brought the whole company together in a raucous but musically sound performance. Rosie Cumber’s performance of “I’m Not Afraid of Anything” was sensitive yet empowering, giving the character a depth of emotions you wouldn’t expect possible in a brief singular song.
The Space is an intimate and inviting venue which at times felt overpowered by the vocals on display. With song taking centre stage (dialogue and choreography slip into the shadows) the cast admirably offered varied tone and dynamic but could even afford to pull back more, allowing the wonderful music to fill the space. Overall, ‘Songs for a New World’ was an uplifting and musically varied masterclass in song, as an ideal combination of musical direction, performance and of course the impeccable work of Jason Robert Brown came together. The talent on show was undeniable, and the hard working cast (barely a moment off stage for them all) received a well deserved standing ovation for their efforts.
‘Songs for a New World’ by Jason Robert Brown is at The Space until Saturday 16 September 2017.