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Songs for a New World

Now in its inaugural season, Marquee Theater Company presents Songs for a New World featuring music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.  Originally produced Off-B roadway in 1995 for a limited three and a half week run at the WPA Theatre, Songs for a New World was Jason Robert Brown’s first produced show.   He and director Daisy Prince put together songs he had written for other venues and events, resulting in a show that rests on the boundary between an abstract musical and a theatrical song cycle.

Jason Robert Brown has said of his show, “It’s about one moment. It’s about hitting the wall and having to make a choice, or take a stand, or turn around and go back.”  With this in mind Songs for a New World contains a series of songs all connected by a theme: “the moment of decision.”  They are performed by four singers who do not play the same characters throughout the show, but who do have consistently developing character arcs. In this production four dancers who look and are dressed like these four singers are added to the show along with two additional dancers.  

While this musical contains wonderful acting and singing opportunities in its solo moments, the group numbers can inherently be a bit stagnant if left alone. Kudos to director/choreographer Ben Solmor for the addition of dancers who flesh out both solo and group numbers, adding visual interest with their energy and excitement, as well as emotional layers through their choreographed dramatic interpretation of each moment at hand. To be frank the Black-Box space used for this production lacks enough depth for the audience to always view the entire choreographed picture at once, and I found my eyes darting about to catch it all. I wanted to catch it all as I found the dancers both talented and engaging – particularly a very watchable Emily Tarallo. The only other drawback of this space is its lighting.  There didn’t seem to be enough overhead lighting to always have a uniform wash of solid light on the actors, and the spot light was a bit sluggish on the night attended.   

Woman #1:  Leah Sessa sings and acts with conviction and great emotion. Her brave-hearted performance of “I’m Not Afraid of Anything” is nicely juxtaposed with a nearly broken-hearted interpretation of the song “Christmas Lullaby”.  She gave the most honest and vulnerable performance moments. 

Man #1: Elijah Wood frankly belongs touring as an R & B.  He has huge stage-presence and charisma, matched with a killer voice, and a musical style and technique that is far more mature than his age would lead one to expect. His “Steam Train” and “King of the World” are both perfection. 

Woman #2:  Jordana Forrest brings a touch of humor and a subtle sex appeal to her songs. Her best acting and singing moments are in “Stars and Moon” and “Just One Step”. She plays well off of her fellow cast mates wherever possible. 

Man #2: James Giordano has a great singing voice – powerful and unfaltering in song after song. His best moments are in “She Cries” and in the duet “I’d Give It all for You”.  He is the least expressive facially of the four singers however, always seeming detached.  I kept desperately wanting him to be present, but his eyes were somewhere else during much of the show. 

The vocally demanding score includes elements of pop, gospel and jazz. The quartet of singers: Leah Sessa, Elijah Wood, Jordana Forrest and James Giordano lustily tear their way through tight harmonies with a sound akin to that of Manhattan Transfer on steroids. My only request would be that that pay more attention to occasionally working their ensemble pianissimo sound as so much of it was forte.  Make no mistake however these four delivery some pretty impressive singing! 

American musical theatre composer, lyricist, playwright and pianist Jason Robert Brown is the recipient of two Tony Awards. He has been heralded as the favorite contemporary composer of an entire generation of musical theatre performers and fans alike. His songs are by no means easy to sing as his choral music includes many complex and unconventional harmonies and his songs (especially for males) cover a very wide vocal range.  His gift is in writing songs that are true musical monologues that are complete stories unto themselves. In addition to Songs for a New World his other works include the musicals: Parade, The Last Five Years, Urban Cowboy, Wearing Someone Else’s Clothes, Chanukah Suite, 13, The Bridges of Madison County, Honeymoon in Vegas, John and Jen, and A New Brain.

This Marquee Theatre production of Songs for a New World appeared at the Next Level Performing Arts Black-Box from December 11- 20, 2015.  Marquee Theatre is a professional, non-profit theater company that performs full-scale, Broadway style musicals. Co-Founders Andrew Schultz and Ben Solmor pride themselves on hiring local professional actors, singers, and dancers. Their Mainstage productions are housed in the West Boca Performing Arts Theater at 12811 Glades Rd. in Boca Raton FL, and their Black-Box productions are housed in the Next Level Performing Arts Black-Box at 7533 N. St. Rd. 7 in Parkland FL.  For tickets and information you may contact them by phone at 954-464-8249 or online at



Woman #1: Leah Sessa

Man #1: Elijah Wood

Woman #2: Jordana Forrest

Man #2: James Giordano

Dancers: Taurean DeVoe, Jonathan Eisele, Alissa Kane, Abigail Perl, Emily Tarallo, Ben          Solmor



Director/Choreographer: Ben Solmor

Music Director: Phil Hinton

Stage Manager: Richard Forbes 


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