In mid-July, Lambert-Jackson Productions presented a version of Songs for a New World, filmed entirely in lockdown. It was the perfect show for lockdown, and packed a punch of emotion from the opening notes. Accompanied by footage of empty Broadway and West End theaters during "A New World" absolutely added to the sadness and the reminder of how important theater is to the entire world. Aside from being a perfect production for lockdown, it was perfect for the current state of the world. During "On the Deck of a Spanish Ship," sung by Cedric Neal, images of current events around the world including Black Lives Matter Protests made it even more powerful.
Cedric Neal, Rachel Tucker, Rachel John, and Ramin Karimloo were the perfect cast for this production, bringing their incredible vocal talents to Jason Robert Brown's masterful score. Even in her home, Rachel Tucker's performance during "Just One Step," was absolutely off the charts, while Rachel John's rendition of "I'm Not Afraid of Anything" was both stunning and heartbreaking, being performed in a living room. The theme of current events continued throughout the production, with "The River Won't Flow," intertwining the music with footage of Trump's interviews about the coronavirus, which was incredibly unexpected but very clever and suitable for the moment.
Brown's score is an absolute stunner, and was accompanied by some fantastic orchestrations, with masterful performances from Rachel Tucker in "Stars and the Moon," Ramin Karimloo in "She Cries," and during "The Steam Train" with the lovely addition of Shem Omari Jones' beautiful vocals.
The noise of the 'audience' during the interval makes me long to be back in a theater, stepping over people to get to the ladies’ room and eating ice cream with one of those tiny spoons. It’s the little attention to detail that makes it so spectacular. And Rachel John's rendition of "The World Was Dancing" was the absolutely perfecting opening for the second half, absolutely filling the room with happiness.
Then it was time for a little bit of Christmas in July. Rachel Tucker's version of "Surabaya Santa" was spot on, perfectly acted and wonderfully sung and I'd love to hear it in person. And Rachel John's "Christmas Lullaby" was a gently comparison, absolutely making my heart melt. While these two ladies are a hard act to top, Cedric Neal's version of "King of the World" comes pretty damn close. He is a powerhouse of a vocalist, doing more with the song than I previously thought was possible. "I'd Give It All For You," led by Rachel John and Ramin Karimloo was a heartbreaker of a song, and probably always will be. Their voices are beautifully suited to the number, and it was perfectly acted to boot.
The final numbers of this song cycle are absolute stunners. "The Flagmaker, 1775" sung by Rachel Tucker was incredible. This song in particular is an absolute beast, and she nailed it, singing with an amazing amount of passion. On the other side of the coin, "Flying Home," led by Cedric Neal, has always instilled so much feeling in my heart no matter who was singing it. And this version was particularly stunning, leaving absolutely no words left to describe how amazing it was.
At the end, the group number "Hear My Song," invoked a large number of feelings with the continued lockdown of theatre. It was a perfect reminder for the day, that the theatre industry will return on either side of the pond in one form or another, and that we will hear the songs that everyone has to sing.