‘Songs for a New World’ playing now at TBT

There are some distinct do’s and don’ts when attending Thunder Bay Theatre’s current production, “Songs for a New World.”

For starters, don’t go expecting a traditional musical with a linear storyline.

Instead, do go knowing you’ll hear beautiful vocals, both individually and when blended. Also, do go expecting to enjoy each of the 16 self-contained songs.

Though the songs by composer Jason Robert Brown are loosely connected through moments in time when people faced life-altering choices or changes, they each stand on their own as mini-characterizations.

Whether they are singing about lost jobs, broken marriages or unplanned pregnancies, the cast of Jordan Ray, Erica Werner, Adrian Rochelle and CJ Bathiany are solid top to bottom. They seem connected to their material as the moving collection of songs finds a balance with a few comic pieces sprinkled in to lighten the load of emotion.

This happens upon a well-rendered set designed by Jack Golden. Through planks, over turned crates for seating, fish netting and some subtle variance in levels, the cast delivers on a seafaring vessel. It makes sense using a ship to convey a feeling of always moving in whatever direction the tide of life takes.

Director Jeffrey Mindock made the creative choice to deviate from Brown’s original version of a more stripped down stage and then also added three interpretive dancers. Alpena High School students Samantha Brooks, Danielle Losinski and Olivia Losinski seem of the sea with their flowing sea-colored dresses and their artistic styles of dance that connect to the stories of the songs.

Each of the four performers get their moments to shine. Rochelle impresses with the haunting “Flying Home” and Ray with the introspective “Christmas Lullaby.” For Bathiany it’s the song, “She Cries,” about the pull of tears on a man’s defenses.

Werner delivers one of the more powerful messages in the lovely “Stars and the Moon,” a story song about a woman who could have chosen for love but instead chose a man for the material possessions he could give her. Not surprisingly, in the end she harbors regrets.

Werner also offers up probably the most amusing song in the show, “Surabaya-Santa.” Sung with marked attitude, her neglected character is preparing to leave St. Nick after years of frustration, and in doing so, she’ll make sure she extricates herself from the legally binding Santa “clause.”

The lighting design and the costumes of the four core company members provide additional visual elements that enhance the production. As always, Mindock and his production staff have paid close attention to all the details that elevate a show.

With eight songs in the first act and eight in the second, “Songs for a New World” runs about an hour and a half in length. Remaining performances are Oct. 5-8 and Oct. 12-15 with no show scheduled for Oct. 13 due to a local dance recital. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

For reservations, call the TBT box office at 354-2267 or go to www.thundertheatre.com.