THE NEW YORK TIMES
Monday, October 30, 1995

Wit and New-Age Sentiments Meet Rock and Gospel Beats
“Songs for a New World”
WPA Theater
 

Plenty of talent and promise are on display in the smooth revue “Songs for a New World,” but admiration for the parts cannot overcome a sense of disappointment in the whole.

With an admirable cast of four singers and a versatile band playing up a storm high at the back of the multi-platform stage at the WPA Theater (519 West 23d Street, Chelsea), the revue shows off the works of the composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown, who conducts.

While the songs range in subject from the oppression of blacks to the plaints of a mother with a song at war to the perils and pitfalls of romance, and in styles from rock to gospel and swing to funk, they are of uneven quality and coexist uneasily, conveying an impression of having been rummaged up from a trunk.  Some are afflicted with obvious rhymes and fuzzy New Age yearnings.  But the show’s best numbers are illuminated by character and wit.

Three fine story songs fall to Jessislotolaskey [sic], who makes the most of them: “Just One Step,” about a New Yawk woman fed up with her husband and threatening to jump; “Stars and the Moon,” about a woman who passes up passion for property, and “Surabaya Santa” (with additional material by Kristine Zbornik), a pastiche of Kurt Weill that explores the marital woes of Mrs. Santa Claus.

In their individual and ensemble number, Brooks Ashmanskas, Andrea Burns and Billy Porter show off voices and characterizations that attest to their gifts.  Daisy Prince (the daughter of the director and producer Harold Prince) has directed the proceedings with a sure hand.
 
 

songs for a new world