Songs For A New World: A Theatrical Review:
The think I love about the DOMA Theatre Company is the fact that they take wild and dramatic chances. Many of these chances work to their benefit as the audience is given a brilliant and amazing production to enjoy and talk about for some time to come, shows like The Who’s Tommy and Tick, Tick, Boom. Then there is the reality that they also my find themselves lacking with their chances, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. When they are on the top of their game, they shine brightly as a company that is to be watched and observed because of the chances that they have taken. When they are not on the top of their game, well, let’s just say, not so much. Songs For A New World by Jason Robert Brown is unfortunately one of those “not so much” shows. This production, directed by Marco Gomez, has literally no story. It has no theatrical value outside of the fact that it happens to be in a theater and has a great set. Outside of that, one might think themselves stuck at a high school concert packed with solos that never tie together in any fashion whatsoever.
The set design is fabulous. A wonderful bar setting with a delightful ambience that gave the audience the exciting hopes that this production was going to be another amazing success. The band, conducted by Chris Raymond and including Ng Yuhoung, Antonio Rodrigo, Anjilla Piazza, and Martin Diller, was wonderful and perfectly designed as usual. The cast was an interesting combination of wise, whimsical, and concerning all at the same time. The apparent star of the show Andrea Arvanigian, who resembles a young Katie Holmes, was delightful to watch and hear, and she brought a charm to the production that was so wonderful it seemed as though she belonged in a completely different production. Her co-star, Malek Hanna, gave fabulous vocals and interesting flavor to the experience, though it would be great if he could tone down the vastly wild facial expressions that often caused him to look more animated than was ever needed. AnnaLisa Erickson, perhaps the only alto/baritone female I have ever heard, brought some fun laughs to her songs as she portrayed each with a flare that is apparently all her own. Then there was Mookie Johnson, a casting mistake. This young man has a nice voice, albeit soft and juvenile in quality, but the songs that he sang were all intended for a powerhouse tenor soloist, of which his is most definitely not. Listening to his vocals caused all in the audience who were not his immediate friends to cringe a bit, always wondering when he was going to falter. The only other character, J.C. Chavez, who had no songs to sing, and seemed to be on the stage merely to be an on-stage prop guy, just did not fit into the picture at all, though he did not take away from it either.
I have a great deal of respect for the DOMA Theater Company, and appreciate all of the hard work that they put into making every production grand. They refuse to allow anything to be done half-way, and as a theater critic, a writer, and a director myself; I have a massive amount of respect and understanding for this. Congratulations to the group for refusing to do anything half-way. This particular production, however, will not be on my “remember” list. It is apparently so personal to the writer that the audience never gets the story that he was intending to tell, if there actually was one in the first place. The production is not a failure; it just isn’t a massive success either. What it is, would best be described as a relaxing night in a theater listening to four singers sing songs that have no connection to one another. If, however, you are a professional vocalist, specifically a tenor, which I am, this will not be the show for you to see, as the songs done by the tenor in the group are by far the most lacking of the entire collection.
The production (experience) runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM, and Sundays at 3PM through June 3rd at the DOMA Theater Company, which is housed at the Met Theatre located at 1089 N. Oxford Ave. in Los Angeles, CA 90029. Prices are $30 for general admission, $34.99 for VIP seating, and $20 for students and seniors. Where this will seem like a grand price for a production of this nature, please know that more often than not DOMA presents productions that are well worth this cost. They do offer a small amount of secured parking just down the street from the theater in the Earl Schieb lot for a nominal $5 charge, and it is well worth it. Should you wish to order tickets for this concert experience, call 323-465-0693, or log onto the internet at www.domatheatre.com.
The California Theatre Critic – Yahoo On-Line International