Posts Tagged ‘song cycle

22
Jul
16

Edges

 

EDGES: A Song Cycle

Understudy Productions

Metro Arts

July 20 – 23 2016

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

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Last night I entered (for the millionth time, I’m sure) the hallowed halls of the Metro Arts building in the city. I never get sick of the place. It was opening night of Understudy Productions’ debut show Edges: A Song Cycle. For those who are not familiar, Edges is a coming of age musical about a group of friends in their early twenties. They reflect on the people they were or pretended to be in high school, and the people they hope to become. It focuses on the tumultuous relationships, the importance of friendship and forgiveness, and the necessity of dreaming big. It also warns about the crazy ex and that closure is paramount.

Edges was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul in 2005. Apparently, while they studying musical theatre at the University of Michigan, they were dissatisfied with the roles they were being assigned so they decided to write their own show. They were only 19 at the time, and now the show has been performed around the world.

Understudy Productions is a brand new Brisbane-based company founded by Alexander Woodward who last year graduated from the Griffith University Queensland Conservatorium of Music. With the help of his creative team, the company strives to create professional opportunities for local performers. Edges was the perfect choice to display the incredible vocal talent of the six cast members, including Woodward, giving each a decent amount of time in the spotlight. They played multiple characters which at first was jarring, though it was quickly established that each song was a snapshot into a person’s life, and then we moved on.

The production itself was minimalist; set at the beach. The friends were spending the day reminiscing while lounging on picnic rugs, eating strawberries and drinking craft beers. A small wooden boardwalk crossed the stage adorned with mood lights and surrounded by pale white sand. Behind this sat the band.

The musical itself is the right amount harrowing and hilarious. The audience enjoys the emotional rollercoaster without being overwhelmed or begging for there to be one central character to root for. I must mention my favourite performance from the Musical Director, Dominic Woodhead, who sang Along the Way. This young man is not only an incredibly talented musician, but his comedic timing was superb during this number. He was completely endearing and charmed the pants off the audience.

The transitions between songs were awkward space and needed more consideration as to what the performers were doing instead of just waiting for their cue to start singing. Those transitions are vital in maintaining that relationship between the performer and the audience. If there is awkward space, then the audience drops out of the world being created for them. And, of course, in large scale musicals there are many magical distractions like flying witches or hobbits disappearing. Edges has a raw and vulnerable quality.

This show is a whole lot of fun but it only runs until Saturday. Understudy Productions is a group of young creatives that are passionate about musical theatre. We need to support those who are brave enough to step out on their own and carve their own path. Support the arts, Brisbane, and most importantly, support the locals!

18
Jul
13

Songs For a New World: Sunshine Coast Premiere Tonight

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Songs For a New World opens at The Lind Tonight!

 

How excitement! The Tipokis have teamed up, synched calendars and produced Jason Robert Brown’s Songs For a New World for the Sunshine Coast! Actually, I suspect it’s for a national tour, but we’re happy here being the outta’ town try-out audience. I hope it will go everywhere so you get to experience it too!

 

The show opens tonight at The Lind in Nambour, and Sam and I will see it tomorrow night.

 

In the meantime, I’ve been reading what Scott Miller had to say about the show.

 

One of the characters in Songs for a New World says “I don’t want to philosophize. I just want to tell a story.” And that line describes Songs for a New World perfectly; in fact, it tells a whole collection of stories. It’s not a book musical – there is no over-arching plot and no consistent characters throughout the evening. In its construction, it owes much toJacques Brel is Alive and Well and living in Paris and the theatre experiments of the 1960s. It’s a collection of independent scene-songs but it’s also more than that. In a 1998 review in St. Louis’ Riverfront Times, Mike Isaacson wrote, “Songs for a New World is that very rare beast: an abstract musical. There is no specific location other than the natural ambiguity of the human heart and mind.” And yet it has a very strong sense of unity about it. Even though many of these songs were actually written for other projects over the span of several years, this show feels like it was planned as a unified whole from the beginning.

 

It accomplishes this mainly because every song in the show is essentially about the same thing: those moments in life when everything seems perfect and then suddenly disaster strikes, in the form of the loss of a job, an unexpected pregnancy, the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage, imprisonment, even suicide. But it’s even more about surviving those moments. It’s about the way we regroup and figure out how to survive in a new set of circumstances – a new world – even against seemingly overwhelming odds. These are songs about that new world, a world in which the definitions of family, distance, money, technology, the very nature of human contact is changing every day, a world in which the rules don’t apply as often as they do, a world in which the solutions our parents found don’t work for us, and a world in which today’s answers probably won’t apply tomorrow. For someone who has lost his job or lost a spouse, our everyday world becomes just as frightening, just as dangerous, just as uncharted as the New World was to Columbus.

 

The other thing that lends unity to this show is composer Jason Robert Brown’s musical habits. There are a handful of rhythmic, melodic, and accompaniment patterns that he obviously likes and that he uses frequently throughout the show. And because he wrote the opening number last, most of these patterns are gathered together in the opening to provide a nice musical framework for the evening. Also, the melody and sometimes the lyric of the opening are used throughout the show as transition pieces and even occasionally show up within other songs.

 

This is one of my fave songs from the show. I can’t wait to hear all of these incredible songs performed live by this awesome cast!

 

 

 

 

And how did the show come to be? Mr Miller can tell us.

 

Composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown came to New York City at age twenty, determined to write Broadway musicals. Because he had no contacts or connections, he decided to do a cabaret show of songs he had written for various past projects. He had the good fortune to run into Daisy Prince, daughter of the legendary Broadway director/producer Hal Prince, at a piano bar where Brown was working. Out of the blue, Brown asked Daisy Prince to direct this show he was putting together, having no idea if she had ever directed anything before in her life. She agreed immediately. They worked on the material for three years but still had no opening number and no clear idea what the show was about. As they discarded existing songs, Brown wrote new ones. Finally it hit him. In his own words,

 

“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.”

 

They did a workshop of the show in Toronto, and then it was brought to the WPA Theatre in New York where it played a limited run of twenty-eight performances. The score was recorded in 1996 by RCA and released commercially. In 1998, Brown was given his first Big Time assignment – writing the score for the new musicalParade, opening at Lincoln Center in the fall of 1998, with a book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) and directed by Daisy’s dad, the legendary Hal Prince. Up until this point, Brown had done a lot of work writing orchestrations and vocal arrangements for other people’s musicals (including William Finn’s A New Brain) but now it was time for him to get the spotlight and no doubt he will become one of the strongest new musical theatre writers of this generation.

 

Starring Patrice Tipoki Arkins, Kuki Tipoki, Jennifer Vuletic and Mark Doggett, and Musically Directed by Laura Tipoki Songs For a New World runs for a strictly limited season July 18th – July 20th 7pm and a matinee on Saturday July 20th 2pm.

Book online or call 07 54411 814

 

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