Friday, February 21, and Saturday, February 22, 7:30 p.m.
Augustana College's Potter Hall, Bergendoff Hall of Fine Arts, 3701 Seventh Avenue, Rock Island 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 February 21 and 22 staging at Augustana College by eight student talents of the OperX ensemble, who will bring 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.
Music directing Songs for a New World for Augustana is Michelle Crouch, an adjunct assistant professor of music at the college whose credits include directing this past fall's OperX presentation The Marriage of Figaro and last summer's Opera Quad Cities staging of The Pirates of Penzance. The show's stage direction is courtesy of Maureen Holmes, a performer with the Nova Singers who served as vocal-music director for Quad City Music Guild's production of Into the Woods. And singing Songs for a New World's thrilling, demanding score accompanied by a live pit orchestra is an octet of student talents from the OperX ensemble: Izzy Bartscher, Katie Griswold, Brian Heffernan, Ryan J. Hurdle, Cami Myers, Ariela Policastro, AJ Weber, and Brycen Witt.
OperX's Songs for a New World will be presented February 21 and 22 in Augustana College's Potter Hall in the Bergendoff Hall of Fine Arts, and will mark the beloved former theatre's final stage presentation ever as building renovations will begin this upcoming summer. Admission to the 7:30 p.m. performances is $5 (free for Augustana students, faculty, and staff), and more information and tickets are available by calling (309)794-7306 or visiting Augustana.edu/tickets.