Songs for a New World is a work of musical theater written and composed by Jason Robert Brown. Its original off-Broadway production ran for 28 performances at the WPA Theater in New York City in 1995. The show sits on the boundary between musical and song cycle: it is a series of largely disjoint songs with (unlike a musical) no plot or characters that continue from song to song, but the songs and production themselves are highly theatrical and character-driven.
The original cast consisted of Brooks Ashmanskas, Andrea Burns, Jessica Molaskey, and Billy Porter (Porter's part was sung by Ty Taylor on the original cast recording). Songs for a New World was Jason Robert Brown's first produced show; he went on to write Parade, a musical based on the tragedy of Leo Frank, and The Last Five Years, a two-person musical about a failed relationship.
The music of Songs for a New World is heavily influenced by a broad range of genres, including pop, gospel, jazz and classical music, making the work an example of musical pastiche. Many of the songs combine elements of two or more of these genres.
The show requires four cast members (two male singers, two female singers) and five musicians. The piano features heavily throughout the show's music. Because of its small orchestral requirements, Songs for a New World has become a favorite small show for colleges and local theatres, despite the fact that the songs are highly vocally demanding. The show is also very demanding for the individual performers because each song is a story in itself. Not only must the performers be able to sing well, but also be strong enough actors to tell a very detailed story through music. Several of the characters are spoofs or vague depictions of well-known historical and fictional characters: Christopher Columbus, Mrs. Claus, Betsy Ross.