It had been a long three years since the performers of New Paltz were able to sing in front of a live audience, but the Theater Department’s newest musical, “Songs for a New World,” changed that. The first musical post the COVID-19 pandemic, “Songs For A New World” is a collection of songs about life and love that are centered around a common theme: the moment of decision. Described by composer and writer Jason Robert Brown, it discusses “one moment. It’s about hitting the wall and having to make a choice, or take a stand, or turn around and go back.” The cast is small, but powerful, as they made singing the vocally demanding contemporary song cycle seem effortless, weaving through various musical genres including jazz, pop and gospel.
One member of the cast, Josh Lococo, a fourth-year theater major wrote on New Paltz’s Theater Department’s Instagram about the musical.
“I think one of the things that’s really valuable about this show is the humanity of it. We get to see people at their highest highs, their lowest lows and everything in between. We aren’t giving the audience the experience of a conventional protagonist they can get behind and root for the whole show. Real life is much more like the way this play is structured — we encounter a bunch of different people who all have whole histories we will never know, but we’re there with them in that one moment and we support them through it.”
One noteable aspect that seemed to be a consensus from the performers was adjusting to performing without masks.
Third-year theater major Irving Zuniga wrote on Instagram, “It is so strange to say that performing without masks feels strange! Though I am grateful for the opportunity to do so, it is certainly an adjustment that I did not think would surprise me. I found myself at times thinking, ‘Oh! Right! People can see the bottom half of my face now! Use it!’”
Gina Lardi, third-year theater major and standout star of the show, told The Oracle that the most significant part of her experience had been the community that was fostered by putting on the musical. “We as a department are already close, but getting to go on this journey of opening the first musical in almost 2000 days was so wonderful. This cast did a phenomenal job working our way back into movement and intimacy work, and the crew was so hardworking and aces at their jobs!” She also shared what she hoped the audience took away from the musical, “I hope the audience took away that there can be joy in tragedy, and that journeys don’t have to be grandiose to be meaningful. It can just be about who you meet along the way, not so much the destination!”
While “Songs For A New World” is no longer playing at the McKenna Theater, count yourself lucky if you were able to see a show, and stay on the lookout for future theater productions from the talented New Paltz Theater Department.