Making changes, moving on and entering new chapters are a part of life. And as the school year draws to an end, it is the time of year that many youth, particularly high school seniors, are anticipating what lies ahead.
At Nature Coast Technical High School, students have prepared a musical presentation that focuses on that theme — finding one's way in a new world. Songs for a New World will be performed Thursday through Sunday by Shark Theatre in the school's Black Box Theatre.
"This is not a traditional book musical with a story," said director Lori Erickson, the performing arts department chairwoman and theater instructor at Nature Coast. "It is entirely sung … a series of songs that are connected thematically."
The show combines singing, dancing and a multimedia presentation with a 13-member cast.
Created by composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown, the abstract musical transports the audience from the deck of a Spanish sailing ship in 1492 to a woman sewing stars on a flag for each of her fallen sons, to a basketball court in the Bronx, where a young basketball player tries to find his way out of the slums.
"It is about the sharing of hopes and dreams of different people who are finding their way in a new world," Erickson said.
The show hits home for many in the cast, including senior Luis Tosado, 17, who moved to the area from Puerto Rico less than two years ago.
"The musical is about life and those hard moments and decisions that everyone has to take," Tosado said. "This (show) hit me in the heart because I went through that — taking that leap and change in direction."
Senior Karina Nieves, 17, agrees. For Nieves, captain of the school's dance team, this is her first time performing in a show with Shark Theatre.
"It's about going into a new situation, moving on and making decisions," she said. "I'm leaving high school and starting a new chapter, so this really relates."
Nieves and Tosado will each perform a solo dance, and then each will have duets with sophomore P.J. DiGaetano.
"They each choreographed their own dances," Erickson said. "They created their dances with the singers. They are the visual representation of those songs."
Erickson said the show uses elements of history, but they are portrayed in a contemporary way, with slides and video. All cast members will sing in the show, which features 16 songs.
Tosado and Nieves are among the nine cast members who recently won the Critics' Choice Award for Best in Florida in a Large Group Musical Performance at the Florida Thespian Honor Society State Festival and Competition in Tampa. Others include juniors L'Oreal Davis and Agustin Quijije; sophomores P.J. DiGaetano, Jacob Guardado, Sam Gee and Kim Hagland; and freshman Matthew Romeo.
Other cast members include juniors Sydney Campo and Leo Dillon and freshmen Alexandra Brickman and Haley Neuhausen.
The production stage managers are junior Lauren Seiler and sophomore Brendan Jones. Local piano instructor Leeann Champagne is the musical director, and Nature Coast theater instructor Tim Erickson is technical director and designer.
"The show is absolutely wonderful," Erickson said. "It's a true ensemble piece. It has an unusual, different style. … The audience will love it."