SLOC Faces the Moment and Produces an Evening of Hope

Composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown have said about his 1995 collection “Songs for a New World”: “It’s about one moment. It’s about hitting the wall and having to make a choice, or take a stand, or turn around and go back.” SLOC and director Rose Biggerstaff have chosen this show to face our own moment and lead us into our new world.

I think it’s a daunting prospect for a young director to be faced with 16 unrelated songs and come up with separate settings for each. That Ms. Biggerstaff largely succeeds with her strong sense of place and especially movement (aided by choreographers Emily Fuller & Mani McCalmon) is reason enough to cheer, especially working with her small cast on SLOC’s vast stage.

Jahmere Holland, Courtnie Harrington, Justin Dawes and Alex Croft
Photo by Carlton Media Productions

The opening number, “The New World,” is terrific and sets up the unified theme of these disparate songs very well. The young Brown looked at his collection of songs, identified what united them, and wrote this song last. Fragments of the tune and lyrics will recur throughout the evening. The company is led by Music Director Dan Galliher, who has a special affinity and ability for the music of Jason Robert Brown do well by this number.

The four-member cast of Alexandra Croft, Justin Dawes, Courtnie Harrington, and Jahmere Holland are ably supported by a dance ensemble of Emily Fuller, Mani McCalmon, Cameron Clarke Stevens & Regan Zlotnick. 

Regan Zlotnick and Cameron Stevens
Photo by Carlton Media Productions

Alexandra Croft has a very strong night of songs that find her leaving a marriage in the first one, “I’m Not Afraid of Anything.” She is a wonderfully convincing storyteller and perhaps embodies the evening’s theme best with these theater songs. She hints at the roiling emotions behind the momentous moments of her songs.

Courtnie Harrington has a wide range, giving a great rendition of the best song in the show “Stars and the Moon” and throwing herself into the excessive comedy of  “Surabaya Santa” where Mrs. Claus tells us what’s up.
Justin Dawes has a rock voice that at times sounds too effortful but has a winner with “King of the World.” I’m eager to see what he does next.

Emily Fuller and Mani McCalmon
Photo by Carlton Media Productions

It’s been way too long since I have seen Jahmere Holland onstage and boy, have I missed him. He has a lovely voice, a naturally commanding presence, and cool ease on stage that is very easy to watch. He opens the exciting “The River Won’t Flow” and miraculously duets intimately at a great distance with Croft on “I’d Give it All For You.” 

The song cycle served as a resume for Brown who a couple of years after the show, scored “Parade.” It’s a nice, hopeful evening of varied songs served up with talent and there couldn’t be anywhere warmer in the Electric City on this bitterly cold night than gathered with this group who love theater.

Through 1/30 @ Schenectady Light Opera CompanyTickets:

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