Songs for a New World by Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, PA
May 12, 2020
Review submitted by Kristiana Filipov of Harriton High School
Have you ever felt like you’re at the precipice of a new world? Looked around just before you made a decision? Thought about how things won’t be the same after this? So has the Abington Friends School’s theater company, who conveyed these momentous feelings in their musical-concert hybrid Songs for a New World.
With music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, the production is a “song cycle” of music about “one moment,” in which everything changes, and the things you may have been sure about cease to exist. Through a collection of different perspectives singing their stories, the cycle makes a point about the universality of change in our lives, and makes for a poignant experience.
Abington Friends’ production was lively and emotional, with soaring vocals from a phenomenally talented cast. The ensemble filled the stage and added energy to multiple solo numbers, and executed their choreography fluidly and skillfully in numbers like “The River Don’t Flow” and “The Steam Train.” Their tight harmonies also added to the show’s resonance, and brought it up to a level beyond compare.
Notable vocal performances came from Sophie Pugh and Katie Brady-Gold, whose powerful pipes filled the entire auditorium and brought goosebumps to many audience members. Pugh serenaded the audience with her performances in “The New World,” “I’m Not Afraid,” and “I’d Give It All For You,” while Brady-Gold wowed with “Surabaya Santa.”
Another notable performance was Zachary Ford’s “The River Won’t Flow,” which captured a sense of whimsical jazz among the other soulful tunes in the show. His mannerisms synthesized a recognizable character that the audience could understand, despite never speaking a word. Similarly, Halle Jacobson’s engaging performance of “Just One Step” demonstrated an impressive ability to convey a strong character through singing. Her forceful movements and body language were convincing and enthralling.
The Songs For A New World Pit Band brought the entire production up a notch, with their skillful performance of a wide variety of musical genres, transitioning between each different song seamlessly. Benjamin Goldstone’s sound was clear and crisp, despite some issues with the recording that made it difficult to understand some lyrics. Becca Pitcairn’s props were also woven into the show wonderfully, and never interrupted the focus of any scene.
With virtuosic singing talent and poignant emotional performances, the Abington Friends School’s production of Songs for a New World certainly created that new world, and entranced everyone into dumbfounded silence.
Review submitted by Claire Jenkins of Conestoga High School
Abington Friends School’s production of Songs for a New World beautifully immersed all audience members into a “new world” of musical theatre! The students delivered a unique performance consisting of high energy and an enormous amount of passion.
Songs for a New World is an abstract musical with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. With an array of musical genres such as pop and jazz, this show encompasses an overarching theme of the moment of decision. Each song consists of a different story line, all the way from a teenager boasting about his future basketball career in “The Steam Train” to Mrs. Claus angrily singing about her neglectful husband Santa Claus in “Surabaya Santa”.
Originally a show consisting of four performers, Abington Friends School succeeded in transforming this show into a performance of thirty ensemble members. Demonstrating both excellent musicality and emotion, the cast was outstandingly victorious in putting on a musical with a demanding score. The cast carried an amazing amount of emotion, adding character to each song performed.
Sophie Pugh was a bright spot in this show, singing powerful solos such as “I’m Not Afraid”. Pugh had an incredibly dynamic voice that was also very expressive of the emotions within each song. Zachary Ford, in songs such as “The River Won’t Flow”, also established his excellent vocal control and expression.
Katie Brady-Gold, an audience-favorite, showed terrific character and witty humor as Mrs. Claus in “Surabaya Santa”. Her comedic body language personated a contemptuous Mrs. Claus perfectly. Another commendable performance came from Mar’keece Barnett. Appearing in songs such as “Flying Home” and “The Steam Train”, Barnett added a vibrant attitude to the performance through his lively energy and admirable vocals. Devyn Costello-Henderson and Halle Jacobson also had notable performances. Costello-Henderson exquisitely conveyed great character depth in “Christmas Lullaby” while Jacobson dealt with both comical and serious tones in “Just One Step” and “The Flagmaker, 1775”.
A key element to this remarkable production was Noah Vinogradov’s impressive music arrangement. His creative and innovative incorporation of the guitar and piano matched the different emotions conveyed in each song. The set was another fine aspect, as it included a city skyline with a background that changed colors. With very few sound issues present, Benjamin Goldstone did a great job working with the sonic components of the production.
Overall, “I’m Not Afraid” to say that Songs for a New World was a huge triumph for Abington Friends School. Each student involved brought something new to the table to create this diverse, noteworthy production.