Songs For a New World
By Kim Purdy

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. This would have been an appropriate motto for director Jon Lawrence Rivera to follow. The composer and lyricist, Jason Robert Brown, wrote the songs as a musical revue. However, Rivera tried to give his production of Songs for a New World a storyline.

The musical revue consists of 16 songs that view the characters hopes, fears and struggles to discover new horizons. Rivera chose the setting of a Los Angeles café with Act I taking place in the late morning, Monday, September 10th 2001. Act II took place in the late evening, a few months later. The specific location, dates and times limited the actors’ exploration that Brown intentionally fashioned. The powerful impact that is created through the music is meant to be in the imagination of the audience.

Although the directors’ choice of location and time was not appropriate or necessary for the musical revue, it did create a fantastic atmosphere. The set design made for a great artistic cozy café. Justin Huen and Jon Lawrence Rivera succeeded at transforming the Los Angeles Theatre Center space into a comfortable café. Janji sold coffee, tea and water in the theatre before the show began. This immediately made the audience accept the creative atmosphere.

The varying degree of talent in the small cast of four was immense. Rick Cornette was absolutely superb as the jock. His natural ability to motivate every movement was remarkable. Jennifer Paz was a stunning singer and actor. The two held the show together. Steven Janji was handed a more difficult task. As the server in the café he handled his solo numbers with maturity. The song, “On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492” should make the audience realize that the man singing is Christopher Columbus. However, Janji tried to apply Columbus’ venture to his own task of serving, but it was out of place. A server doesn’t inspire the soul like Columbus does. Casey Jones tried hard to fit into the cast, but her movements were artificial and her voice was inconsistent. She was the weak link in an otherwise well type cast revue considering the café setting that Rivera developed.

Again I will emphasize that a musical revue does not need characters or a plot. The definition of a “musical revue” is that the songs are loosely connected to emphasize the theme. Jason Robert Brown wrote 16 amazing songs for this musical revue and it was by no means a broken piece of art. Therefore, Rivera limited the power within the musical by trying to “fix” it.

Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 South Spring Street (Downtown Los Angeles between 5th and 6th Street). Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances are 8:00 and Saturday matinees are 3:00 p.m. Runs July 11-August 9. $25-30. For more info: TDRZ Productions

songs for a new world