Following the abrupt cancellation of Les Misérables last March due to Covid, Blind Brook’s theatre program sought to highlight the senior class in a way that would honor hope and the sweetness of change. This year’s show, Songs for a New World, written and composed by Jason Robert Brown, serves as the perfect vehicle for that. Directed by English/Theatre Arts teacher, Christina Colangelo, there will be three in-person performances, each at 7:00, on Thursday, April 29th, Friday, April 30th, and Saturday, May 1st.
Logistically, having a large ensemble cast would have been impossible and unsafe due to Covid, but this show in particular works very well for a multitude of reasons. Describing the show’s format, Musical Director Kaitlin Lazere notes how “it’s very, very music-heavy. It’s all about the songs, and most of them are solos, so it works out well. One singer can freely sing on stage, while the others are masked or physically distanced. It’s a really diverse show in the style of music, and the different stories that are told.” The show will also utilize pre-recorded vocal and instrumental tracks in place of ensembles, displaying the need for craftiness in such an unusual time.
Capacity is also limited in all aspects, due to social distancing measures necessary for the cast, crew, and audience. This has, in turn, created an interesting fundamental dynamic, with a small cast of seniors taking charge with their final high school production. Lazere continues, “I think especially to have this opportunity for the seniors, not only as a capstone experience for high school but also as a bit of redemption for having lost that last year, is a really special way to honor them and to give them that last opportunity to perform for their community. I’m excited for them.”
Thematically, this show fits quite well with the times, as noted by Director Christina Colangelo. The musical presentation opens with the lyrics “A new world calls across the ocean, a new world calls across the sky”, a testament to struggles facing everyone this past year, but also juxtaposed with the hope of looking forth towards better days. “It displays a theme of hope and overcoming, and how everyone’s individual experiences are related to the world as a whole. It’s really about unity and appreciating and hoping for a positive future, which is really what we’re hoping for in the theatre department.”
These themes hit close to home for many whose lives have been completely uprooted by the pandemic, but especially so for the seniors, who will be taking their final bows of high school at the conclusion of this show. Senior cast member Zachary Berger remarks, “This year is bittersweet since I am so glad we are able to put on a musical, but it’s a give and take. Although all of the seniors are together, we don’t get to work with the underclassmen, see them grow, and give them advice.” With a cast of only 13 seniors and juniors, underclassmen were left with little to no performance opportunities this year. Berger explains “It feels great that we get this experience and a final send-off, but I can’t help but think about how things have changed.”
The theme of optimism is prevalent both within this show and the theatre community as a whole, providing hope that the pain of yesterday will create an even brighter tomorrow. Referring to the cancellation of Les Misérables, Colangelo admits that “it was a little heartbreaking. But I think it also gave us some inspiration to want to keep doing things because we felt like there was so much we wanted to share, and we didn’t get to do that, so it inspired all of us to continue to look forward to this year.”
The theatre industry has been one of the most hard-hit during Covid because its core principle of genuine human connection has been made impossible, however, this show is proof that things will soon be looking up. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” mentions Lazere. “We’ve been so disconnected and isolated for so long that I hope this will be just the kickoff of many, many, many exciting things to come. I hope it’ll encourage people to get back into performing groups so that we can rebuild and enjoy each other moving forward.”
Of course, the challenges presented by the pandemic will continue to provide plenty more hoops for humanity to jump through, but Songs for a New World makes it clear that change is a natural part of life that must be embraced, with all the messiness and chaos that comes with it. Highlighting a small cast of seniors as they enter new chapters of life puts this message at the forefront, making it clear that life must be embraced for all of its complications, and that the power to create a better world only lies in the hands of those who are brave enough to do so.
Be on the lookout for more information regarding tickets for Songs for a New World, as audience capacity has been limited to BBHS students, faculty, and immediate families of the cast/crew. The performances on April 29th, 30th, and May 1st will also be live-streamed for those unable to attend. Come out and support your classmates!