In the summer of 2018 New York City Center presented a production of Songs for a New World as part of their Encores! Off Center series. I was thrilled when I heard that there would be a brand new cast recording of Jason Robert Brown’s landmark musical. I had a chance to listen to this brand new recording and it is awesome! The music is spectacular and invigorating. The vocals from Shoshana Bean, Colin Donnell, Mykal Kilgore, and Solea Pfeiffer are stunning. There are songs that make me want to get up and dance, and there are some that are chill inducing and very emotional. One of the things I love about this recording is that even if you did not see the musical you can feel the energy from the actors and orchestra come through in every song. If you are a fan of Brown’s musicals or simply good music, I would highly recommend this new cast recording of Songs for a New World because the vocals and music it contains are spectacular.
Songs for a New World is Jason Robert Brown’s first produced musical. The show appeared off-Broadway in 1995. According to Ghostlight Records Songs for a New World “is a collection of powerful songs examining life, love, and the choices ordinary people make when faced with extraordinary moments.” Although the actors play various characters throughout the show there is a common theme. Previously, Brown described this commonality as, "It's about one moment. It's about hitting the wall and having to make a choice, or take a stand, or turn around and go back." Some of the songs are about relatable shared experiences such as a breakup, fears and love, but there are also songs about the sinking of a ship full of immigrants and another song about a women who is concerned about her son and husband who are off fighting in the Revolutionary War. In the song “She Cries,” Colin Donnell sings the lyric “I don't like to philosophize I just want to tell a story,” and that sums up what this show is about. It is a musical that tells various stories about being human and the choices we make. This recording is exquisite, and the music and vocals are powerful. It is definitely a recording that fans of Brown and musical theatre will enjoy and listen to often.
Before I write about some of my favorite songs on the new album, I wanted to mention that there are so many highlights from the new recording of Songs for a New World that I cannot write about them all. Anyone who listens to the music from this show will be humming the songs for days and have lyrics running through their mind. The recording begins with the song, “Opening – The New World,” and as soon as it begins to play it is chill inducing and the listener can feel the energy from the entire company come through. One of the most iconic songs from this show is “Stars and the Moon.” It has been recorded by numerous artists over the years. Shoshana Bean’s rendition of this song is powerful and touching; her vocals are incredible. Another song that Bean performs that is full of sentiment is the song “The Flagmaker, 1775.” This particular song is my favorite on the recording. Shoshana Bean is a vocal powerhouse and that comes through in every song she performs on this recording, plus, audiences can feel the passion bleed through in her songs. All of Solea Pfeiffer’s songs are dynamic. Her song “Christmas Lullaby” is infused with emotion as the lyrics and performance by Pfeiffer tug at the heartstrings. In addition, audiences can hear the fearlessness in Pfeiffer’s vocals during “I’m Not Afraid of Anything” as she recalls how the people she loves have held her back. Colin Donnell’s vocals are infused with compassion especially in his song with Pfeiffer “ I’d Give It All For You.” In addition, Donnell’s vocals in “She Cries” are outstanding in this jazzy sounding song. Another song on the recording that is full of passion is “Flying Home” performed by Mykal Kilgore. The song is about a soldier who has died in battle and his body is being flown home. Kilgore’s vocals in this piece are dynamic. Also, hearing him sing “King of the World” is moving and will definitely move people to tears. One of the things I love most about this recording is how with each actor’s performance of every song the listener can hear the difference in their performance and feel how the show is evolving.
I unfortunately did not have an opportunity to see Songs for a New World at New York City Center. However, I am grateful that Ghostlight Records has released a recording of this new cast because the album is incredible. This cast recording is full of energy and raw emotion. Also, it makes the listener feel as if they are right there on the emotional journey of this show. The songs are beautifully written, and the performances are full of passion and zeal. The sentiment comes through in each song, and touches the heart of the listener. This is a fantastic cast recording and definitely one I will be listening to frequently.
For more information about the recording please visit Ghostlight Records website at ghostlightrecords.com. The recording is available for purchase and download beginning January 25, 2019.
Final Thought: The new cast recording of Songs for a New World is spellbinding. I found myself getting lost in the songs and the lyrics as each song tells a story. With Jason Robert Brown’s music and lyrics combined with the powerful performances by Shoshana Bean, Colin Donnell, Mykal Kilgore, and Solea Pfeiffer this cast recording is definitely one I personally will be listening to repeatedly for a long time to come. If you have not purchased the recording of Songs for a New World I would highly recommend it.
Kelli Curtin is founding editor and writer for theatresensation.com. She has maintained a love of the performing arts since a very early age and she is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.