It is no secret that the performing arts groups at Diamond Bar High School work tirelessly at their craft, and the theater department is no exception. In addition to their upcoming spring musical, the theater department will perform another musical production for students this week.
“Songs for a New World,” an abstract musical by composer Jason Robert Brown, is a song cycle, a set of songs linked together by subject rather than plot. “Songs” features 17 pieces unified under the theme of “the moment of decision.” It was Brown’s first production, playing off-Broadway in 1995; he has gone on to write the scores for the Tony Award-winning “Parade,” “13” and “The Bridges of Madison County,” still on Broadway.
“Song” is typically done with four performers, but the DBHS cast includes eight students. The cast is composed entirely of students from the Theater Performing Arts Academy, which is an extra period class for advanced students interested in pursuing a deeper understanding of theater arts.
Students in the program receive individual instruction, an internship with a theater company, and specialized music theory, musicianship and vocal lessons, all to help them gain a better understanding of the professional theater world.
This will be the theater department’s first time presenting two musicals in a school year. DBHS theater instructor Beatrice Casagran said that “Songs for a New World” caters to the needs of the small cast, allowing them to explore a more modern production.
“We needed a musical that was a small musical with a small cast, since we only had nine people in that program,” she said. “We got to choose a show that was contemporary, and by one of the composers that’s really exciting to younger theater audiences.”
The performers are also in charge of directing the production. The musical numbers are split between the cast, and each is directing several different pieces.
“The group of us are working on this show practically alone. We’re the actors, set designers and producers of the show, so we have a huge amount of control over what’s being done on stage, when normally we’re just up there to do our one job,” senior Daniel Durkee said via Facebook.
Senior Chloe Reyes said that the show provides the cast with the opportunity to create a individualized performance for the audience.
“We’re painting this world on a blank canvas for the audience to experience. The creativity is endless,” Reyes said via Facebook. “Committing to the production, I am able to not just perform, but to build and direct.”
The students have been rehearsing since January, Monday through Thursday right after school, as well as Saturday rehearsals.
The cast members also attend evening rehearsals for “In the Heights” every week.
“Songs for a New World” will be performed Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets are on sale online at seatyourself.biz/dbhsdrama for $15 for students, $18 for adults.