Kelly Van Oosbree directs the song-cycle musical for Platte Valley Players
I didn’t know what to expect from Songs for A New World, the exhilarating new offering from director Kelly Van Oosbree and the Platte Valley Players.
Unlike every actor and musician I know — including my concert pianist wife — I was unfamiliar with Jason Robert Brown’s work, and even more embarrassing to admit, I had never heard of this popular show, which premiered in 1995.
The production, more a series of song cycles than a storied musical, is heartbreakingly performed by a stellar ensemble. It felt like a postcard from the 1990s — in other words, before the age of pandemics, Qanon, climate Armageddon, political upheaval and various other horsemen of the apocalypse.
That’s not to say that Brown’s lyrics are cloying. Though he writes about lost love, breaking up, reuniting, worn-out marriages and lost opportunities, his songs never feel hopeless. This is a show about yearning, and how people navigate the intersections of their lives.
I was eager to see another Van Oosbre production after watching her similarly touching production of Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical at Cherry Creek Theatre last August.
She is everywhere these days. Somehow between Tenderly and Songs, she managed to squeeze in The Drowsy Chaperone at Performance Now.
Van Oosbree’s style here is simple but elegant. Her staging never gets in the way of her performers, and she allows the lyrics to do the work.
For those unfamiliar with this show, Songs is a series of sung monologues that are, to a discerning ear, connected by theme but not plot. They are self-contained, cathartic and moving.
The cast is uniformly excellent, as is music director Eric Weinstein’s virtuoso accompaniment at the piano, which is placed downstage left, exactly where it should be.
The lovingly dulcet Lindsey Falduto charmed the house with her winking take on “Stars and the Moon,” a good example of the composer-lyricist Brown’s ability to upend a cliche.
Falduto later joined the always-excellent Jeremy Rill in the duet, “I’d Give It All Up for You.” And if that isn’t glorious enough, Falduto nearly walked off with the show as the tipsy and ignored wife of Santa Claus, sung in the style of Kurt Weill, while sprawled on the top of Weinstein’s piano.
Denver-area newcomer Moses Brown delivers rousing and unrestrained renditions of “Flying Home,” “Steam Train” and “King of the World,” belting out these pop and gospel tunes with more energy and heart than I thought humanly possible.
And the prize for opening up tear ducts, a tough competition for a show brimming with candidates, goes to “Christmas Lullaby” sung by Isabella Duran.
It’s one not to miss, but it ends soon so grab tickets for this weekend’s final three performances