Monday, 27 July 2015

Review: Songs For A New World at the St James Theatre

Songs For A New World 
St James Theatre
Reviewed on Friday 24th July 2015

Written by Jason Robert Brown when he was only twenty-five, Songs For A New World has become truly iconic. I had forgotten just how many incredibly written numbers are in the show, which is celebrating twenty years since its off-Broadway premiere.

Bringing together different stories and characters, the song cycle takes its audience on an emotionally charged journey. Robert Brown is one of my favourite composers and lyricists; his writing is down to earth and his lyrics cleverly pinpoint certain emotions and everyday feelings which other writers can't quite put their finger on so finely. 

Jenna Russell gives the most stunning performance of the year so far. Whether she's pulling at the heartstrings or leaving an audience in fits of laughter, Russell is always at the top of her game. I have watched countless performances of 'Stars and the Moon' over the years, but Russell's rendition stopped me in my tracks. Her interpretation is simple, delicate and hugely moving.

Cynthia Erivo interprets music beautifully, simply highlighting innocence and vulnerability so effortlessly. My favourite number from Songs For A New World has always been 'I'm Not Afraid Of Anything' and it's safe to say Erivo smashes it! Her vocals can never be faulted; Erivo subtly puts her own stamp on the material, it is the smaller details of her performance which resonate so strongly.

Completing the cast are Damian Humbley and Dean John-Wilson. I could happily listen to Humbley sing anything, his performance of 'I'd Give It All For You' (a duet with Erivo) is another of the evening's highlights. John-Wilson impresses most when he is showing off the softer tones of his voice.

The majority of Adam Lenson's production is blissful; however, there are occasional moments of clunky movement. Some of the transitions, such as random chair-swapping and aimless walking, feel a little forced. Overall the standard was very high, perhaps I was looking too hard for fluidity.

Russell and Erivo give a masterclass in performance through song in this revival of Songs For A New World. They are two of our brightest talents and to see them starring in the same show - which features some thrilling numbers - is not to be missed.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Songs For A New World runs at the St James Theatre until Saturday 8th August 2015. Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Darren Bell

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