21 Aug 01
Songs for a New World
The Bridewell (Fringe)
The New World in question is America, land of hope and promise, where people love and struggle, and dreams can come true. Written by Jason Robert Brown (Tony Award-winner for 'Parade'), 'Songs for a New World' is cornier than a field of maize. It's a collection of poppy R&B tunes that explore ideas of self-belief, ambition and commitment through banal narratives and gloopy sentiment. At least a quarter of the songs use flight as a metaphor for achievement; almost all deal with couples drifting apart and together again.
When he can escape the chains of cliché, Brown¹s songs become engrossing and entertaining: 'Stars and the Moon' is a sly, witty tale of a woman who thinks she has everything, while 'Surabaya-Santa' finds Father Christmas's glamour-puss wife craving attention to the dirty vamp of a waltz. Elsewhere, though, there are tales of woman who use tears to manipulate men and sewing to combat the stress of war that are certainly peculiar but entirely without resonance.
It¹s hard to imagine anyone doing more to conceal the weaknesses
in Brown's revue than director Clive Paget and his engaging cast (Craig
Purnell, Sarah Redmond, Nigel Richards and Golda Rosheuvel). On a
simple set, using only a white sheet, a pair of stairs and a few twinkling
lights, Paget fleshes out the skimpiest tales. The singing is powerful,
the acting committed. Redmond is particularly winning, but then,
she is blessed with the best tunes. Her performance suggests that
there's a fine cabaret writer in Brown
songs for a new world