This is it for Jeff Thurm, Stephen Groves and Stephanie Dobberstein. The three Winston Churchill High School seniors loved performing during their high-school years, and each had multiple leads in Churchill’s "Blast from the Past" music and dance revue. Now they’re months away from scattering to Philadelphia, Colorado and North Carolina for college.
On the brink of major changes in their lives, Thurm, Groves and Dobberstein feel an especially strong connection to the characters they play in "Songs for a New World" at Olney Theater this weekend. It is their curtain call as high-school performers, and it could hardly be more appropriate. "This is probably my last show here with my current friends," Groves said.
In one way or another, each character in "Songs for a New World" is also on the brink of a major change. A Jason Robert Brown musical, "Songs" doesn’t have a linear plot, but through its songs tells dozens of stories with a common theme.
"They fit under the umbrella of trying to perfect the new world," Thurm said. "It’s broad enough that anyone can put in any experience they’re having."
The opening number rings especially relevant, with lyrics about being a stranger in a strange and different land, Thurm said. He’s also fond of "River Won’t Flow," one of the songs he performs with the ensemble. "Everything is so emotional. It’s sort of an upbeat, intense, fun song that’s needed after depressing songs."
That’s the way the mood flows and meanders through the songs. "It’s about being really scared and really excited," said B-CC senior Ali Hoxie. "Even in the funny songs, there are some vulnerable moments."
A wealthy woman feels desperate and trapped in her marriage. A young single mother is gung-ho and determined. A man caves in to his manipulative girlfriend against his better instincts. Collectively, they tell a story that runs the emotional and social gamut.
"It brings so many ideas and perspectives," Dobberstein said. "You’ve got everything."
Act Two’s musical director Keith Tittermary put in harmonies for 16 performers. "All the harmonies and music are going to blow them away," Dobberstein said.
Dobberstein also believes the emotions the performers feel will be evident, and the seven high-school seniors in the cast are like-minded. "We’re showing it and emotionally feeling it, rather than just acting it out," Thurm said.
"I know there will be water works," said Gaithersburg High School senior Amanda Spellman. "I’m going to cry like a baby on closing night."