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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — January 30, 2004

Weekend Living

It’s about one moment

‘Songs for a New World’
opens at the Liberty

Express Staff Writer

Jennifer Riley-Perry, Debra Wagoner, Joshua Phillip Huff and Bobby Smith are singers, actors and dancers. They are the closely-knit ensemble which makes up the cast for the Company of Fool’s new production of "Songs for a New World." It is directed by John Glenn and opens Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey. It plays through Feb. 22.

The line of playwright Jason Robert Brown’s in the show that hangs from over stage begins, "It’s about one moment. It’s about hitting the wall and having to make a choice."

The cast of "Songs for a New World" performs at the Liberty Theatre during a rehearsal. From left to right are Debra Wagoner, Bobby Smith, Jen Perry and Josh Huff. Photos by Kirsten Shultz

Despite this moderate explanation, the play is hard to define in general terms. It’s a musical revue, but there is storytelling as well. As written by Broadway theatre composer Brown, each song in fact creates its own little skit, a world of its own, which together also form a whole.

The songs are literate, thought-provoking, achingly sad, bluesy, and up-lifting with complex harmonies. The performers strut their stuff on an urban-looking set, designed by Dennis Rexroad, that’s akin to "West Side Story" meets "Blade Runner."

"I can’t wait to rehearse to see what they’re going to do and what we’re going to do together," Perry, a former resident of the Wood River Valley said.

A naturally talented singer, Perry helped lift the bar in the valley for all singers. She was seen as Aldonza in Laughing Stock Theatre Company’s "Man of La Mancha" and in Laughing Stock’s "The Sound of Music," where she charmed as Maria. With her own Giant Productions she produced, directed and starred in "Little Shop of Horrors." She has also appeared with Company of Fools in "A Christmas Carol," "The Tempest," and ‘The Gift of the Magi." Now living in Salt Lake City with her children, she loves being in the valley again, singing.

"This project is really dear to me, this is the last thing I’ll do for awhile," she said wistfully. "To work with people who challenge you is wonderful. It’s a new mix of people who have different backgrounds. They’re sharp and are helping me grow."

One of those singers is Wagoner who was seen on stage here last summer playing the lead role in COF’s "Always … Patsy Cline." She returns to share her deep, rich vocals after having done several productions back home in Richmond, Va., including "James Joyce’s The Dead" and "Nunsense."

Josh Huff is a wonder of young evolving talent. Primarily a singer, he is now living in New York, making the rounds at auditions.

"This show is so popular with musical theatre types," he said beaming. He added that being here is a thrill and despite long rehearsal time he still finding time to relax.

The maestro of the group is clearly Bobby Smith, a veteran of Broadway musical comedy and touring casts including "Crazy for You," The World Goes Round" and "Forever Plaid" Now based in Washington, D.C., where he teaches tap and theatre for teens he is a long time friend of R.L. Rowsey and John Glenn.

"Songs" portrays people in conflict, Smith explained. "The moment it all becomes clear that it hasn’t gone right. That’s something we can all relate to. These are the beautiful stories we look for in life. And if you don’t like one of the numbers wait a second."

The choreography is by Leslie Owens-Harrington from Washington, D.C., with musical direction by R.L. Rowsey. On stage throughout, Rowsey’s accompanying band is Dorinda Rendahl, Joe Spencer and Dan Durand.

Tickets for the show are available at the COF box office, 578-9122.



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