Filichia Features: More Songs for a New World

Filichia Features: More Songs for a New World

By Peter Filichia on February 28, 2019

No matter how much you love any original cast album, the day comes when you cease playing it and put it on a shelf.

When a new recording of that score emerges, you revisit, rediscover and fall in love with the work once again.

You'll have that experience with the recently released Songs for a New World .

It was Jason Robert Brown's 1995 breakout score that Daisy Prince conceived as a revue and directed. This new recording comes from last summer's production at Encores! Off-Center. It's a two-disc set that's eight minutes longer than the original.

More to love!

How could this beloved revue last less than a month off-Broadway? Thanks to the original album, productions have proliferated around the world.

This new recording may refresh your memory and spur you to mount it. That superb score sung by four performers in contemporary clothes in front of an undemanding set makes for an easier-than-usual production.

You undoubtedly have your favorites among the 16 songs. Here are mine.

There's an homage to Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's "Surabaya-Johnny," a cri du coeur from a wife whose husband's almost always literally at sea, making for no real marriage. Brown instead gives us a 17-year-old lass who now realizes that she erred in telling her love-at-first-sight beau "wither-thou-goest" - for she wound up living at the North Pole.

Yes, "Surabaya-Santa" is the lowdown on what it's like to be married to Kris Kringle. Brown paints a more doleful - yet hilarious -- picture from the one that Jerry Herman detailed in his 1996 TV musical Mrs. Santa Claus.

Not as famous as Santa, to be sure, is Betsy Ross, who lives in history as the person whom General George Washington assigned to create the first American flag.

Many historians doubt the story; Brown believes she did make it. In "The Flagmaker, 1775," however, he gives a different motivation: Ross sewed out of nervous energy while worrying about her husband who was out battling the British.

Many songs have insisted that love is better than anything else. Here a woman recalls the man who said he'd give her the "Stars and the Moon" as opposed to riches and creature comforts.

"I'd rather have a yacht," she responds.

When a second man offers those same stars and moon, she quips "I'd rather have champagne."

Well, that's coming down to brass tacks. Even Margo Channing in All About Eve is willing to chuck Broadway fame for life as a housewife. But this woman won't settle for less. You never hear that in love songs, do you?

The woman eventually lands that billionaire and yacht. The only flaw: she doesn't feel for him what she felt for the other men. So we still get the message that love is the answer - only in a roundabout way.

Shoshana Bean, who rose to fame as Broadway's second Elphaba, sings both of those as well as one of the greatest pieces of special material ever written: "Just One Step."

Murray's wife is on the terrace of their Fifth Avenue high-rise ready to jump because life isn't worth living.

Why? Murray won't buy her a fur coat.

She believes she's being reasonable, for she'd asked for a house in Quogue, which he nixed. Thus she feels entitled to a consolation prize.

Murray won't agree.

The woman reveals much more about herself than she'd planned. She's aware that Murray has stopped loving her and that he tells everyone that she's "embarrassing, fat, demanding and controlling."

Then she stops, for she realizes that she'd better not remind Murray of these all-too-true qualities. She next brings up that his mother never liked her, too, before grasping that this isn't a good idea, either.

By now, Murray has come to the conclusion that he should have listened to mom.

So all that's left is this dramatic "step" of threatening suicide.

The song not only establishes "Be careful what you wish for" but be careful, period. Brown gives us a surprise ending that may well be the best possible solution.

The revue's penultimate song again shows Brown's unique take on life. People say "I felt like I died and went to heaven," but in "Flying Home," Mykal Kilgore plays a man who's dying and now fully expects to go to heaven.

And you may feel that you went to heaven without dying when you hear the new Songs for a New World.

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