Monday, September 4, 2017


For new director Christopher Faison, producing his debut musical at the Chestnut Street Playhouse in Norwich, has been a homecoming of sorts.  The work, “Songs for a New World” by Jason Robert Brown, is an unusual song cycle that deals with decisions made at a precise moment in time. We all have those moments, moments that are momentous and life altering, fraught with decisions that have far reaching consequences.   For Faison, who has long been an actor, it began in 1996 just after this show debuted Off-Broadway.  He was introduced to the music and it affected him deeply.  He identified with the four main characters who are embarking on different paths and journeys and the hopes that fueled their awareness.

In the year 2000, the show was produced at Chestnut Street Playhouse’s former iteration, the Spirit of Broadway, and when Faison was offered the opportunity to direct, this show was the one that leaped to the forefront.  Faison admits, “I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do.”  He “feels like I gave birth.  It’s a full circle moment.  I hope the audience identifies with it as being about the world right now and will be moved and feel chills.”

“Songs for a New World” will play until Sunday, September 10. It includes a string of tunes connected by a theme “the moment of decision.”  The songs are pop and gospel and jazz that enjoy a spiritual flavor.  They span decades and eons, from a 1492 voyage literally to a new world to a flag being sewn in 1775’s Revolutionary War to honor the two men most important to Mrs. Ross's life to an angry Mrs. Claus who accuses her famous hubby of being neglectful. Personally I would have preferred a little spoken dialogue to ground each piece as they are wildly different in nature as to time and place.

These stores in song explore relatable connections and you are sure to identify with one or three of them yourself.  The energetic company includes Robert Ball, Audrey Rummel, Chris Stanley and Erin Sousa-Stanley, with Michael Goldman and Violet Saylor.  One of the most powerful numbers is “King of the World” where a man proclaims his right to be free so he can return to a life of leadership.  Along the way, we hear abut sacrifice, about choosing security over love in “Stars and the Moon,” how lovers unsuccessfully try to live without each other in “I’d Give It All For You," to a soldier who has given up his life for his country, the ultimate sacrifice, in “Flying Home.”

We meet a woman about to take a flying leap over a ledge to gain her husband’s attention in “One Last Step,” to one who bravely proclaims “I’m Not Afraid of Anything,”  to two men who announce that “The River Won’t Flow” for either of them. The songs skip in a dozen directions and hopscotch from place to place, many with a common thought of understanding heaven’s grand design, with the prayer for God to shine upon them.  Brown even touches on addictions and segregation.

For tickets ($27), call the Chestnut Street Playhouse, 24 Chestnut Street, Norwich at 860-886-2378 or online at or  Performances are Thursday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come explore new musical worlds courtesy of Jason Robert Brown who went on to compose “Parade,”  “The Last Five Years,” “13 the Musical,” “Prince if Broadway” and “Bridges of Madison County,” and actor Christopher Faison who is making his directorial debut.

1 comment:

  1. Correction: Robert Ball is in the company not Robert Hall.