Batavia Players present abstract musical ‘Songs for a New World’ this weekend

May 19, 2016

Amanda Melissa Taylor discovered Jason Robert Brown a few years ago. It began with her listening to the CD of his 2002 Off-Broadway musical “The Last Five Years.” Then it spread to his other works until she found a recording of his 1995 musical “Songs for a New World.”

That’s when she decided she needed to bring the musical to the Batavia Players and the stage at Harvester 56 Theater.

“I found myself saying ‘I like this song and this one and this one.’ Then I finally got to see the show in a theater,” said Taylor, a longtime member of the Batavia Players who makes her directorial debut with this production. “That’s when I said I have to do this.”

It took some time, and a lot of begging with Batavia Players President Patrick Burk, but Taylor got her way. “Songs for a New World” will open a three-night run at Harvester 56 Theater, 56 Harvester Ave., at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Other shows are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“One of the benefits of our theater is that by having a black box style, it’s very intimate,” said Taylor. “That enhances these particular songs. I asked him about it every day for a few weeks, then he finally agreed to put it on the schedule.”

The show is described as an abstract musical — a cross between a musical and a song style — since it is a collection of songs that are connected by a theme. That theme is “the moment of decision.” The characters in the show have story arcs that reach from song to song, but they are presented out of order.

Brown described the show, his first by saying “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.”

Each song explores a characters decision. “Just One Step” shows a wealthy woman standing on the ledge of her 57th-floor apartment in an attempt to gain the attention of her neglectful husband. In “I’d Give It All For You,” former lovers reconcile after deciding to split. In “Flying Home,” a soldier who was killed in battle sings as his body is returned home to his family.

Taylor explained that what attracted her most to this show was how she personally related to one of the storylines.

“There’s a big grouping of songs that really relates to a good friend of mine and what she’s going through,” she said. “It’s about a couple that seems really good on paper and they act like they’re perfect, but they end up breaking up. Then they get back together once they realize they never should have been apart. That’s very similar to my friend’s situation.”

In directing her first show, Taylor made a major change from the original. Instead of running with four characters — Man 1, Man 2, Woman 1 and Woman 2 — she expanded the cast to eight roles, four men and four women. Filling the four lead roles are Joe Kusmierczak, Joel Hurlbert, Deanna Spiotta and Jennifer Neroni-Trupo. They are joined by Taylor, Kristin Gelia, Richard Ferris and Nash Johns.

“I had a lot of people to choose from for auditions. That’s not a bad problem to have,” Taylor said. “We went from two guys and two girls to four guys and four girls. And even that was really difficult.

“Each character in the original cast had two storylines, so it was really easy to chop them in half. Then we made some of the songs company parts.”

Tickets for the show are $15 for adults and $12 for students and senior citizens. They are available at the box office or online through www.showtix4u.com.

By MATT KRUEGER, Batavia Daily News