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'Songs for a New World' review: Each song is a story

Colin Donnell and Solea Pfeiffer are among the

Colin Donnell and Solea Pfeiffer are among the talented quartet of performers in "Songs for a New World." Credit: Joan Marcus

WHAT "Songs for a New World"

WHEN | WHERE Through June 30, City Center, 131 W. 55th St.

INFO From $25; 212-581-1212, nycitycenter.org

BOTTOM LINE Flawlessly sung revival of Jason Robert Brown's early work.

Think of it as a musical in 16 acts. Each song in Jason Robert Brown's "Songs for a New World" is a gem, a self-contained, fully developed story that tells of someone on the precipice, whether it's the deck of a Spanish sailing ship in 1492 or the ledge of a 57th-floor apartment on Fifth Avenue.

This was Brown's first work (he calls it a song cycle), written when he was just 25. Opening this summer's Encores! Off-Center series, the show, with its complex musical styles (gospel, jazz, R&B), requires a versatile cast that can go from lullaby to bawdy parody without missing a beat. You get all that and more from these four superb singers: Shoshana Bean, Colin Donnell, Mykal Kilgore and Solea Pfeiffer, each of whom has at least one showstopping number.  

For reasons unclear, this production adds an ensemble of five dancers, and while taking nothing away from their undeniable talent, it is an unnecessary extravagance, often a distraction. Honestly, when Kilgore pours his guts out with the powerful "Flying Home," you could put Misty Copeland behind him and no one would notice.

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