Performing Arts

Songs For a New World

(L-R) Nana Hosmer-Griffin,Dwight Chiles, Mark Jones, John Crawley and Kelli Mullinix. Photo by Lupe Perez

The musical Songs For a New World opens Friday, March 3, at Asheville Community Theatre’s (ACT’s) 35below, and runs through Sunday, March 19, with performances Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 p.m. The show, which weaves together characters, locations and time periods, features four performers who play multiple roles in a series of thematically connected songs.

“This is not a typical musical, but a song cycle,” says Jones, who produces, directs and stars in the show. “There is no plot. Each song has its own story, and they combine to create an evening of stories with the common theme of life changes and how we react to them. It’s really beautiful.”

Songs For a New World features music and lyrics by Tony Award-winner Jason Robert Brown, who also wrote Parade and Bridges of Madison County. The show, originally produced Off-Broadway in 1995, contains music influenced by a range of genres, including pop, gospel and jazz. Each song is about making a decision, whether good or bad.

Jones has wanted to produce Songs For a New World since he first heard Audra McDonald sing the show’s highlight, “Stars and the Moon,” in 1998. “The music is gorgeous and vocally demanding,” he says. “As a performer, I’m always searching for something to challenge me, and this show certainly does. The harmonies and intricate melodies are hard, but learning them is very rewarding.”

Jones, who has many acting and directing credits with ACT, including The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Seussical and Young Frankenstein, is joined by accomplished local performers Kelli Mullinix, Nana Hosmer-Griffin and Dwight Chiles. Mullinix, who starred opposite Jones in ACT’s John & Jen in 2015, has performed at other local venues including Parkway Playhouse and the Asheville Lyric Opera.

“I’m looking forward to this show because the group of people I’m working with are so aware of the importance of telling a story through song,” says Mullinix. “Add piano and percussion to that and you have magic.”

Hosmer-Griffin was last seen as Elizabeth in Young Frankenstein. She has appeared in many other local productions, including RENT and Kiss Me, Kate and is the second soprano in Asheville’s vocal chamber ensemble Pastyme.

Chiles, who completes the cast, also appeared in ACT’s Kiss Me, Kate and in several Montford Stage productions, including The Importance of Being Earnest. John Crawley will serve as music director; piano and percussion will be performed by Dave Bruce.

“This show is so well-loved by fans of musical theatre,” says Hosmer-Griffin. “And I think audiences will connect with the theme. In our current climate, I feel like we are on a precipice waiting for something to happen and this music very much taps into those swirling emotions.”

35below is located at 35 East Walnut Street in Asheville. Tickets are $22 and can be purchased at the Asheville Community Theatre Box Office, also at 35 East Walnut Street, by phone at 828.254.1320 or online at ashevilletheatre.org.

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