The Drake University Theatre Department will soon present their long-awaited online musical, “Songs for a New World” by Jason Robert Brown.
Drake Theatre has transformed how students rehearse and present their shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The cast won’t be performing to a large in-person audience, but rather, a single camera recording of the performance for later online viewing.
“Songs for a New World” isn’t a traditional story. It’s a glimpse into a series of transformative moments in the lives of many different people throughout different decades, all expressed through song.
“The show is about the moments in life where we come to the metaphorical fork
in the road,” said director Adam Yankowy. “Life is going along and then something happens and you have to make a decision that could change your life forever.”
Music is the backbone of this production and for actor Zach Barry, it’s been his favorite part of the experience so far.
“I have been obsessed with the soundtrack,” Barry said. “There are so many intricate harmonies and parts to the music that I could not wait to work on, and it really is a pleasure to finally be singing it with the rest of the cast.”
“Songs for A New World” was originally scheduled for spring 2020, but COVID-19 moved rehearsals to a whole year later. Most of the actors and designers who graduated in 2020 had to abandon their commitment to the show. Sydney Crutcher, whose original set designs are still being used in the production, is the one exception.
“This is the first time I have been distantly involved in a production which is a little weird,” Crutcher said. “I’m halfway across the country so I really have to rely on everyone to keep me in the loop.”
While it may seem odd, Crutcher reassures audiences that a lot of time and preparation has gone into the construction of this show.
“A lot of theatre and entertainment right now feels thrown together or last minute,
but this show is quite the opposite,” Crutcher said. “I started thinking of the set design in June of 2019, and while it has gone through many iterations to accommodate the pandemic, the product our audiences will see is the best edition.”
Actress Natalie Payne is thrilled to be back in her element on the stage after the
long halt the pandemic created.
“It has been a blessing to simply sing and dance with my peers again,” Payne said. “The music and choreography are challenging, and I have loved attacking the work as a team.”
At times, COVID-19 caused trouble for the cast as they rehearsed. Actress Niaa Dowell expressed frustration with the new and challenging circumstances.
“It has actually made it pretty difficult for me just because it feels weird trying to operate safely under these new regulations,” Dowell said.
Barry urges people to take a look at what the cast and crew have been able to present in the face of the extenuating circumstances.
“I would love people to tune in to the live stream for our show,” Barry said. “I believe that this variety of stories will be beautifully told in a way that can resonate with each member of our audience…there is a certain relatability factor that I feel will make a special connection for those who attend.”
Audiences can stream “Songs for A New World” virtually from Feb. 25 to March
11. Tickets begin at $2 and can be purchased here.