Songs For a New World premieres at AAC

Over the weekend, the Trinity College Music Department put on a performance of Songs for a New World in the Austin Arts Center. The show, which was directed by Julia Kiley and features the music of Jason Robert Brown, uses a minimalist black box theater. This choice places a greater emphasis on the appreciation of performance above aesthetics.
The show begins with a piece called “The New World,” which features performances from each member of the company. The music from the piece sets the tone for the entire show. Songwriter Brown’s style is generally more concerned with lyrical dexterity and emotional clarity in these pieces. As the pieces work to entertain, their connection to a more articulate period of musical showtune style is what comes across, rather than any “new world” of music. There is no plot connecting these characters together, though the specifics of many songs paint pictures of their individual stories.
The songs present the interesting characters at the center of the songs in situations that are either light and enjoyable, or heavy and melodramatic. The show is also interested in warping expectations, making things hilarious that should naturally be disturbing, as well as making things unsettling when the subject matter is whimsical. In “Surabaya Santa,” Brielle McDonald ’20 performed a beautiful piece from the perspective of a frustrated wife who refers to her partner as “Nick.” It is only near the end of the piece that one realizes the woman is actually Mrs. Claus, describing the frustration she feels after being left alone every Christmas. McDonald’s performance was one of several showstoppers.
This cast was composed not only of Trinity students, but also of high-school age actor-singers. Senior Christopher Perkowski ’18, the only senior performer and lent a great deal of charisma to the show, highlighted most in the opening number and in the penultimate song to the show, “Flying Home.” He consistently shows great aptitude for conveying emotion and dedication to character. Patrick Gancy brought vibrant life to his female character, who threatens to jump over a ledge in “Just One Step.” Gancy had an impressive balance of hilarity and drama that made the character feel real.
Choreography from Maggie Powdery ’18 was predictably impressive. Powderly’s work in several AAC shows in the past has shown her great competence, and Songs was another success. The show proved to be a great showcase of some of Trinity’s most impressive vocal talents. Though not every performer excelled in every way, every one of them excelled in something. The performance will certainly be remembered as a very welcome infusion of musical energy to campus.

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