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Songs For A New World - Upstairs At The Gatehouse Review

Reviewed by Jess Green
Tickets were gifted in return for an honest review.

The first, but perhaps lesser known musical from Tony Award winning writer, Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Bridges of Madison County, The Last Five Years), examines what it is to be human, in all its emotional depth and glory, alongside hard work, love, lack thereof and of course, death.

Photo by Clarissa Debenham

The show watches like an anthology of short stories turned musical, each narrative individually told but cleverly interwoven to make a cohesive piece of theatre. The many characters, portrayed by this talented cast of 4
, transport us to a skyscraper in New York, a 15th century ship and even the North Pole, showcasing that throughout time, space and conditions, the universality of human nature remains constant.
From the first moment, the score is so recognisably the work of Jason Robert Brown, showcasing his signature dynamic, unconventional harmonies, but the individual story songs feel slightly reminiscent of the work of Kerrigan Lowdermilk. The band are fantastic, and I hugely enjoyed their presence on stage, making them an integral part of the production.
The cast (Lizzy Parker, Eleanore Frances, Luke Walsh and Christopher Cameron), are a quality quartet. It was a joy to watch a group of such different performers interact throughout the stories they were telling. Lizzy's stunning vocals, Luke's natural stage presence and movement, Eleanore's emotive comedy and Christopher's nuanced characterisation blended seamlessly.

A proportion of the stories were a little difficult to interpret through song, three minutes not quite enough to portray the setting, the mood and have the viewer emotionally connect, but the cast drew clear emotive lines between the tales which eased the audience's job. I thought Eleanore a wonderful actress, subtle but funny and most fluently bringing uniqueness to each of her somewhat tortured women.

Photo by Clarissa Debenham

Whilst lending itself nicely to a small space, I would love to see this performed in a slightly larger auditorium, so the very musical theatre acting (here, both appropriate and very well done) is not viewed from television proximity. The set (Sophie Goodmanis very visually appealing, providing a varied backdrop and the movement through it was brilliantly directed (Kai Wright).
Running Upstairs at the Gatehouse theatre in Highgate until 3rd March, this powerful song cycle, is a captivating watch, portraying the timelessness of self-discovery.

Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Tickets are available from

Photo by Clarissa Debenham

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