Students entertain with song cycle show

Musical theater talent abounds at South Whidbey High School.

Mark Arand leads a chorus of his fellow schoolmates and singers in the gospel-like “Flying Home” from Jason Robert Brown’s “Songs for a New World.” The show opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Musical theater talent abounds at South Whidbey High School.

So when it was rumored that there would be no theater production this year due to a lack of a production team, a number of students raised their melodic voices in protest.

Fortunately, they were heard.

Thanks to volunteers, director Linda McLean and assistant director Stefanie Ask, “Songs for a New World” will open Thursday, May 29 and plays through Sunday, June 1 in the South Whidbey High School Auditorium.

“Songs for a New World” is a theatrical song cycle composed by Jason Robert Brown. The hot, young composer has recently taken Broadway by storm and has been hailed as one of the smartest songwriters since Stephen Sondheim.

“Songs for a New World” made its premiere in fall of 1995 at the WPA Theatre in New York and has since been seen in more than 200 productions around the world.

By definition, a song cycle is a sequence of songs related in mood and designed to be performed as a single entity. It forgoes the traditional narrative form by assimilating a theme on which to string the songs together.

The theme here, said Ask, revolves around the idea of “a moment” when one can either face a decision to move forward or choose to walk away.

In this cycle, Brown echoes the style of Sondheim on several of the tunes while incorporating other styles like rock, blues, gospel and even a comedic tour de force.

The centerpiece song, entitled “Stars and the Moon” hints at influences from Joni Mitchell and Suzanne Vega.

Admirers of the famous German musical genius Kurt Weill will appreciate the a song called “Surabaya-Santa,” a black-comedic take on married life as seen by a somewhat neurotic Mrs. Santa Claus.

The modern, multi-level set made this song cycle the perfect choice for the high school group who had a limited amount of time and budget.

“I think we found the perfect show because it’s so flexible,” Ask said.

“There are no set changes and no musical complications. But we still get to show off the incredible musical skills of this cast.”

“Songs for a New World” will be accompanied by a live orchestra led by band director Chris Harshman with Grant Neubauer and Jess Foley on piano, James Caldwell on bass and Jordan Knight on drums.

The cast includes Mark Arand, Ethan Berkley, KayLynn Childers, Sahara Coleman, Justine Coomes, Cameron Gray, Natalie Groce, Sean Hough, Gina Knox, Kim McLean, Hillary Mellish, Nicole Parnell, Jasmine O’Brochta and Birdie Sam.

Costumes were made by South Whidbey High School graduate Kate Hodges.

The show runs for one weekend only at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 29 through May 31 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 1.

Tickets cost $10 for adults and $7 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the auditorium box office before each performance.

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