“It’s about one moment…”
One moment is all it takes to change your life. One moment, one second, one decision and life can change for good. Jason Robert Brown’s beautiful score and lyrics epitomise this perfectly in his collection of Songs For A New World.
From the decision to have a baby (Christmas Lullaby) to the decision to leave a partner (I’m Not Afraid of Anything) to the decision to come back (I’d Give It All For You), Brown’s score is heart-wrenching from start to finish with spine-tingling melodies and lyrics which hit too close to home on so many occasions. It’s a show that is full of empathy which was beautifully performed by four very talented performers, the star of which was Ollie Metcalfe who totally wowed with King of the World and Flying Home. From anger to despair in a matter of minutes, his performances had absolute star quality.
The show isn’t all about the serious however and Meesha Turner provided some light relief through Just One Step and Surabaya Santa, having the whole audience laughing. Meanwhile, Rosie Cumber brought an incredibly powerful voice to the table and George Gehm gave an intense performance of simmering hurt and anger. Occasionally the cast didn’t seem sure of their lines although I’m sure this is something which will improve as performances progress.
This production took the decision to add in an interval, something I’ve not seen in previous versions of the show and I do think it led to the loss of some emotional intensity. They’d kept the sparseness of the set however and made excellent use of the few props they had. However, intermittently they made projections onto the back wall which I think provided more distraction than help and they showed contexts which were already obvious from the songs.
The key to watching this show is to realise that there is no traditional story. The characters of Man 1, Man 2, Woman 1 and Woman 2 are not the same people in every song (although they do share similar traits) so don’t expect a beginning, middle and end as such. Instead just sit back and enjoy the ride, the beautiful writing of Jason Robert Brown and the strong performances of the cast.
Review by Emily Diver
Songs for a New World takes us on an energetic, electrifying and inspiring journey through the life-changing moments that make us who we are. From a balcony in the heart of America, to a prison cell; from a Spanish sailing ship, to Lapland, Jason Robert Brown’s extraordinary songs entwine characters, locations and time periods together in one extraordinary performance. With a prolific cast and creative team, Helping Hands brings Jason Robert Brown’s vision to London for its 22nd anniversary.
This is the first production Helping Hands have embarked on since its first concert in December 2016, but under the direction of an up-and-coming Director, Danäe Cambrook, and musical director, Sally Goodworth, it promises to be an outstanding show.
A talented cast of 4 are called on to stretch not only their singing talents with Jason Robert Brown’s rich and challenging score, but also their accomplished acting talents. Rosie Cumber, Meesha Turner, Oliver Metcalfe, and George Gehm come together for the first time to pour their heart and soul into a show that reflects our times, and the life-changes we all undergo.
Producer: Natallia Ushe
Director: Danäe Cambrook
Musical Director: Sally Goodworth
269 Westferry Road
London, E14 3RS