Theatre in Los Angeles is a new world to me. It’s often hidden and sometimes magnificent and occasionally the venue outshines the performance the actors are giving, which is the case this time. The DOMA Theatre Company has set up permanent residence at the MET Theatre in Hollywood, directly off of the 101 on Santa Monica Blvd. This gem of a theatre is all inviting and has many things I love about theatre. A parking lot, a greeter who tells you where to go and what the night will be like and a pianist to entertain you before the show and during intermission. Once I sat down at their cute cabaret like seats, and the lights went down, my happy wonderland feeling started to melt away.
“Songs for a New World” by Jason Robert Brown has marvelous songs and much like “Putting it Together” is a mashed together medley of the composer’s work; unlike “Putting it Together” there is no story line. The songs themselves are fabulous to listen to and I suggest you get the CD. With no real plot line, the show itself maneuvers through the songs, which is each a story within itself. All set within a bar/nightclub each performer laments or rejoices on a certain moment in his or her life with a well-written Robert Brown song. This particular production, which runs through June 3rd, needs a little more work and is not currently very good. Each of the four cast members has their own moments, but the two performers with the most moments are the two women of the show.
Andrea Arvanigian is young, beautiful and has a vivacious voice to match. Though she is not flawless throughout the show, her youthfulness and heartfelt acting of her many solos often leave a smile on your face. AnnaLisa Erickson, pulls ahead with her hilarious facial movements and acting skills that hit her solos out of the park. Particularly memorable is Surabaya-Santa, which will leave you rolling in the aisle. Her Stars and the Moon would be stunning if she were allowed to be center stage, with only a spotlight on her and no side acting by the ensemble, who are trying to portray the scene she is singing. The two male performers, Mookie Johnson and Malek Hanna have a little more work to do in order to bring their performances to the ladies’ levels. Johnson improves as the show goes forth, but Hanna’s performance seems strained and over-the-top. Often, when all four sing together it is awkward and the four strong voices do not meld well together. Overall the direction by Marco Gomez seems sub-par, he has pretty good performers who he could have showcased better if it weren’t for the mediocre lighting, quite often the spotlights were only lighting half of the singer(s) and the sub par dancing.
“Songs for a New World” still has a few weeks to run and with the experience of the four performers on stage it will no doubt improve with time. This is not a bad production, but it is not a great production either. It has its moments that make the show worth going to see. If the lighting is fixed, the harmonies are tightened and if each performer works on their own personal flaws within the show then this production could be stellar. All in all the venue is definitely worth a trip to Hollywood, the employees there will make you feel welcomed and well taken care of, before, during and after the show, and the catchy and wistful tunes will absolutely get stuck in your head.