Review: New ‘Songs for a New World’ co-production improves on last summer’s filming


When Teatro San Diego launched in 2020 with the goal of providing more work for theater artists of color and LGBTQ and disabled communities, its first production didn’t get the start its founders dreamed of.

Due to pandemic concerns last August, the Teatro filmed and aired its staging of Jason Robert Brown’s musical “Songs for a New World.” Fortunately, among the online viewers last year were executives from the Oceanside Theater Company, who invited Teatro to remount the show this month at the Sunshine Brooks Theatre.

The new production, which runs through Sunday, recreates Teatro co-founders Kevin “Blax” Burroughs and Julio Catano’s original staging concept, along with Alyssa “Ajay” Junious’ choreography and stage design decorated with Reiko Huffman’s protest slogans. But this production has a new cast, new dancers and a live band led by William Ah Sing rather than the recorded tracks used last year. And most importantly: it’s live. Streaming theater cannot replace the visceral and exciting feel of live performance.

Written in 1995, “Songs for a New World” is a plot-free review of 16 songs of characters making life-altering decisions at defining moments in their lives, such as contemplating suicide, leaving a bad relationship, having a child, go on an adventure. or take a stand for their beliefs.

Burroughs and Catano reset the show to the “new world” of the post-George Floyd/Black Lives Matter era. They also redesigned the roles of the four performers – named simply Man 1 and 2 and Woman 1 and 2 in the script – to represent different themes. Woman 1 (played by Brittany Adriana Carrillo) sings songs about female empowerment; Man 2 (Christian Duarte) sings about romantic relationships; Woman 2 (Keri Miller) sings about white privilege; and Man 1 (in this production performed by a woman, Timyra-Joi) sings about racial justice. Some of the comedy and love songs gone wrong are poorly suited to the new theme and setting, but most match.

Several of the standout numbers are sung by Timyra-Joi, a talented R&B singer who was a teenage finalist on NBC’s “The Voice.” She sings with deep passion and heart, especially ‘The Flagmaker, 1775’, a revolutionary war tale revamped into a Black Lives Matter protest song, and ‘Flying Home’, about the body of a soldier brought home to his family. . His rendition of the song “The Steam Train” struggling to overcome adversity is also moving.

Miller is terrific and funny in a trio of comedic cabaret songs. It’s a drunken Mrs. Claus angry at the absences of her husband, Santa Claus, a wealthy but neglected Manhattan woman who threatens to jump off her apartment building, and a never-satisfied gold digger who wants the stars and the moon.

Carrillo is a sensitive vocal performer with a knack for connecting with audiences in songs about vulnerability like “I’m Not Afraid of Anything” and “Christmas Lullaby.” And Duarte brings youthful exuberance to a trio of songs about unhappy relationships: “She Cries,” “I’d Give It All for You” and “The World Was Dancing.” Two dancers, Mikaela Rae Macias and Joshua Washington, bring scale, emotion and cohesion to the production, even though Washington was sick during the performance I saw.

Even though I saw this production last year, I was happy to see it again in a more robust and fully realized production.

“Songs for a New World”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Sunshine Brooks Theater, 217 N. Coast Highway, Oceanside

Tickets: $15-$45

Call:(760) 433-8900

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