Songs for a New World
Dunstan Playhouse

UPLIFTING, inspirational, moving and at times definitely grooving,  
Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown's song cycle embodies the spirit  
of optimism. From the outset, it was about seizing those rare moments  
of opportunity. Brown seized the chance here to take the work,  
previously performed by his small band the Caucasian Rhythm Kings and  
four vocalists, and flesh it out to include the 35-piece Adelaide Art  
Orchestra and 12-voice Adelaide Vocal Project choir.

While a couple of tunes, including the opening ensemble number The New  
World, had origins in a planned production about American history,  
there was none of the nauseating patriotism often associated with such  
themes. Instead, Brown has captured the spirit of human endeavour, even  
mixing the story of the Stars and Stripes flag against the fears of  
losing loved ones to war. It also demonstrates the diversity of his  
songwriting skills, from the gospel and blues infused On the Deck of a  
Spanish Sailing Ship, 1942 with its funky chorus, to the sweet soul  
prayer of Flying Home ­ both brilliantly realised by the angelic voice  
of Bert LaBonte. Cabaret star Rachael Beck showed how to really sell a  
lyric with the feisty, classic showtune I'm Not Afraid of Anything, as  
did Secret Life of Us star Spencer McLaren on the salsa-styled She  
Cries. Between conducting and accompanying on the piano, Brown proved a  
very engaging and self-deprecating raconteur, introducing Broadway  
singer Julia Murney's rendition of Stars and the Moon as "a medley of  
my greatest hit".

Fellow diva Lauren Kennedy sang a sweet-as-pie Christmas Lullaby and  
joined Brown on vocals as the separated lovers who are reunited, in  
voice at least, on I'd Give It All For You.

McLaren and former Stingers star Ian Stenlake staged a feisty  
confrontation for the gravelly rhythm'n'blues of The River Won't Flow  
and actor Simon Burke roared King of the World to a foot-stomping beat.

But it was Australian stage veteran Judi Connelli who absolutely stole  
the show with the fabulous melodrama, frenetic delivery and soaring  
notes of Surabaya Santa, a parting note from a very disenfranchised Mrs  

­ Patrick McDonald

songs for a new world