The ensemble rehearses “Songs for a New World" at the Black Box Theatre -- July 11 through 19.

Thursday, July 11, through Friday, July 19

The Black Box Theatre, 1623 Fifth Avenue, Moline IL

An iconic early project by a three-time Tony Award winner, composer Jason Robert Brown's cabaret-esque musical Songs for a New World enjoys a July 11 through 19 staging at Moline's Black Box Theatre, a gifted cast of eight bringing vocal life to this generational touchstone that led Theatre Mania to write, “Brown's score is filled with soul-stirring melodies, and his lyrics brim with emotion, hope, and soul.”

According to its creator, Brown's 1995 Songs for a New World is “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 its rousing theatrical score that blends elements of pop, gospel, and jazz, and that features tight harmonies and daring vocals, the show is composed of Brown-composed songs that he had previously written for other venues and events, albeit reconfigured to make new emotional connections between the numbers and the characters performing them. Over the course of two acts, Songs for a New World transports its audience from the deck of a Spanish sailing ship bound for a new land in 1492 to the ledge of a New York penthouse where a woman attempts to get her neglectful husband's attention. Characters range from a young man in the Bronx who dreams of becoming a famous basketball player to a forlorn and neglected Mrs. Claus lamenting the approach of Christmas. And through these and more than a dozen additional musical scenarios, Brown's supreme talents as a composer and a creator come to the fore, demonstrating the early talents of a musical-theatre legend revered for, among many other projects, his work on Parade, The Last Five Years, Jon & Jen, A New Brain, and the Tony-winning musical version of The Bridges of Madison County.

the Songs for a New World ensemble

Co-directing Songs for a New World are Black Box Theatre veteran and Augustana College's associate professor of theatre arts Shelley Cooper and local-theatre alum Kelsey Walljasper. Cooper has appeared in venue productions including Hello, Dolly!, Jane Eyre, and Cooper's one-woman show Jenny Lind Presents P.T. Barnum, and whose recent directing credits at Augustana include Nine, Cabaret, and The Threepenny Opera. Walljasper, meanwhile, who also serves as her show's stage manager, recently helmed Kinky Boots for Quad City Music Guild, with additional area credits including acting as stage manager for Music Guild's Rent, directing the Spotlight Theatre's The Spitfire Grill, and appearing in that venue's productions of Matilda: The Musical and The Wedding Singer.

The musical's eight-person cast features an octet of local talents: Evan Gagliardo; Katie Griswold; Noah Hill; Noel Jean Huntley; Kaden Micklos; Jordyn Mitchell; Kira Rangel; and Keenen Wilson. And with Black Box co-founder and artistic director Lora Adams serving as producer and set, costume, and props designer, additional members of Cooper's and Walljasper's creative team include: music director Mitch Carter; assistant music director Rob Elfline; sound designer Doug Kutzli; and lighting designer Mike Turczynski.

Songs for a New World runs from July 11 through 19, with performances Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Admission is $16, and more information and tickets are available by calling (563)284-2350 and visiting

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