Musical Manda – ★★★★★
Jason Robert Brown’s first musical song cycle Songs for a New World starring David Hunter, Rachel John, Cedric Neal and Rachel Tucker wowed audiences at the London Palladium for just one day. Featuring a live orchestra, four incredible West-End talents and an ensemble made from the 3rd year students from Mountview, Songs for a New World is a moving collection of songs about life, love and the choices that we make.
Lambert Jackson Productions have worked alongside director Séimí Campbell, lighting designer Jack Knowles and musical director Adam Hoskins, to enable this show to be performed following social distancing measures. With a handful of shows currently available to audience members this provides great escapism and shines a light for further productions.
The symbolic ghost light takes centre stage highlighting the plight for theatre but not for long as these spellbinding performers launch onto the stage showing just why the Arts are so important. The buzz and anticipation was palpable in the auditorium awaiting the start of the show. So much so that in fact the show was delayed starting due to the rapturous applause as the musicians made their way onstage. And as soon as Rachel John sang her first note the audience was reminded of the power of live music.
Jason Robert Brown’s clever score has the audience laughing one moment and in tears the next. With memorable songs and hummable tunes the show is a good mix. As we are beginning to expect from Lambert Jackson Productions each performer is perfect for the role. The joy of being onstage was obvious and with it their performances even more passionate. Rachel John proves that there is nothing vocally she cannot do as she tackles a range of songs with perfect tone and quality. Her rendition of ‘I’m Not Afraid of Anything’ results in instant goosebumps. David Hunter utilises his comedic quality to embody the characters and tell each story through song. Rachel Tucker has the audience laughing during ‘Just One Step’ and ‘Surabaya-Santa’ proving that she is more than capable of shifting seamlessly from emotional to comedic roles. Cedric Neal captures the audience with his gorgeously deep tones and earns himself the crown of ‘Riff King’ as he stuns the audience. His performance of ‘King of the World’ is simply breathtaking. Newcomer, Shem Omari James is a breath of fresh air. Mixing brilliant vocals with sass and attitude not to mention a superb dance section during ‘King of the World’ he clearly is one to watch for the future.
As a performance this production was everything you would want from a West End show. Power, passion, drama and insane talent. But it is much more than this. Songs for a New World is the first musical held at a West End theatre for months. It shines a light for future productions to come and the reopening of theatre. Perhaps soon the ghost lights can finally be put away to make room for theatre, music and creativity to once more thrive and delight audiences.