It’s been 16 long months, but the Bellport barn scene known as The Gateway Playhouse has finally been awakened. The organization may not have been able to present any shows for the entire duration, but they did manage virtual learning and theater programs, a successful series with a drive-in series that included over 100 movie titles, and they even ran a Haunted House drive-thru at Southaven Park in Brookhaven.
Always a pioneer in musical theater, the official start of the 2021 season of The Gateway is a new adaptation of Songs for a New World, a synthesis of the many iterations of the series since its creation in 1995 with original music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. With this production, The Gateway immediately tackles the current problem, COVID-19, and shows what it is, how it was and how unique choices, brief moments in life, can affect the course of the future. .
Songs for a New World is not a musical and has no plot. It’s a production based on a theme told through the power of music – the power of songs and lyrics when everything is stripped of glamor and bright lights and the truth is laid bare, whether ugly or beautiful.
In the first act we are faced with COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe and dying next to nurses covered from head to toe with photos of themselves on their uniforms so the patient can somehow see who is with them. The loneliness of nurse and patient is raw and comes to life through words.
We’ve all experienced this pandemic in our own way, and the cast brings it all together on stage – the emotion reverberates through the audience, causing the hair on the neck to come to attention as this truly profound experience unfolds. unfolds in front of us. The climax of months of fear, doubt, indecision, hope, death – the whole gamut of pandemic life is displayed in all its glory and, yes, everything is ugly.
It is a reminder of all that we have been through individually and opens our eyes to the experiences of others – a theatrical experience not based on fantasy, but on human nature and a reminder of our ability to rise above it. of all things.
The six-person cast is made up of some really powerful singers who play many roles throughout the production – a seamless ebb and flow of who’s who is revealed in the lyrics, so be careful.
Most notable in the cast is Alyssa Wray, fresh off the top 10 in the most recent season of American Idol. Her solid pipe playing is crowd pleaser, and she can throw a note to the moon, earning a few boos from the audience for her fantastic presence and voice.
In her biography in the poster, she shares a resonant quote, “When words fail, music speaks”, and which seems appropriate for this production and in this new world we all live in. With the whole show presented through song and lyrics, it must be a challenge for these artists to maintain their vocals throughout, but Wray’s voice never wavered unintentionally. The raw emotion of “I’m Not Afraid of Anything” might make audience members hold back tears.
As we realize a pampered housewife threatens to jump off a ledge in “Just One Step,” performed by tiny powerhouse Morgan Billings Smith, we’re brought back to the show’s theme: the moments that define us. Then the softly melodious voice of Mary Kate Moore tells a story of lost love and the choice that changed her fate.
The surprise of the night came from Caleb Mitchell, senior at Middle Tennessee State University, whose voice captivated and inspired. Sometimes serious moments and others reaching a high falsetto level, the emotion he was able to convey in his songs was just magical. The talented singer blew the audience’s collective minds away in the number “Flying Home”, a sad, strong and inspiring song that tells a bittersweet story and, once again, how a choice, a moment in time, can define the course of a man’s future.
Christian Douglas and Jordan Goodsell completed the casting. In the second act, Douglas plays a homosexual in the late 70s / early 80s when everyone was talking about the global AIDS pandemic. The parallels between this pandemic and the current one are not lost on us and really make you rethink what we have all been through and what we still experience as we navigate our lives.
Having missed the live theater for the past year or so, it was refreshing to be back and in the audience, holding up a freshly printed poster, enjoying a show not built on a specific storyline or tap dancing. It was an ode to human perseverance – to the spirit within us, all that gives us the strength to make those life-defining choices, whatever they are. We will always be here, we will always fight and we will continue to live every moment and be thankful to be back here, watching an incredible cast of artists singing their hearts out. Songs for a New World is the necessary transition we all need and a choice you won’t regret. Watch it play now through July 31 at Gateway Playhouse.
While the 2021 season has kicked off later than usual, there are plenty of exciting performances to look forward to from The Gateway’s talented staff, from the lighting crew to ushers, box office staff to the The Gateway producer Paul Allan himself, everyone is excited to be back in action.
Million Dollar Quartet will play at the Gateway Playhouse from August 4-21. The Gateway production of the hit Broadway show News can be seen at the Patchogue Theater from August 25 to September 11, followed by A men’s guide to love and murder From November 17 to December 4. Their Holiday Spectacular on Ice is back from December 17 to January 1, 2022.
For tickets and information, visit thegateway.org.