Jason Robert Brown’s “Songs for a New World” is a remarkable work, a cabaret cantata or song cycle every bit as evocative as, say, Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde,” but in a genre, namely musical theater, that doesn’t really do song cycles. After playing Off Broadway and spawning a cast album, the piece went on to become a favorite of theatre companies with smaller resources because it only calls for a cast of four, though it would be hard to imagine a better cast of four than Bohemian Theatre has assembled to raise the rafters with this work. Not only is each cast member a superb singer with an immense dynamic range but each is able to act out the characterizations of each of these character-driven storysongs as if they were truly telling their own story. Fresh from his extraordinary success as Coalhouse Walker in Porchlight’s production of “Ragtime,” Jayson Brooks brings that same prayerful pathos to his “New World” characters, including leading “Flying Home” as an anthem finale (the song order has been shifted here, but quite effectively). Alanda Coon relishes her roles as well, particularly her take on Mrs. Santa Claus fed up with Old Saint Nick but Michael Arthur and Jess Goodwin are equally memorable in their offbeat roles. Also deserving kudos are director Elizabeth Margolius for her convincing conception of the work and music director and pianist Andra Velis Simon for the extraordinary range of moods she is able to evoke. (Dennis Polkow)
At the Theatre on the Lake, 2401 N. Lake Shore, (312)742-7994. This production is now closed.