THE GREATEST SONG FOR A NEW WORLD By Peter Filichia
Perhaps the situation didn’t play out this way, but I’d like to think it
Daisy Prince meets a young songwriter named Jason Robert Brown.
She hears what he has to offer, is greatly impressed with his work –
but is most taken with one song: “Just One Step.”
She tells him “My father has to hear this,” so she calls up the man
known to us as Hal Prince and says “Daddy, I’d like you to give a
listen to this very gifted songwriter.”
Mr. Prince agrees, and soon Brown is warbling “Just One Step” for
the great man. Immediately after the last piano riff, Prince jumps up
and says “That is one of the greatest pieces of special material I've
ever heard in my professional life. Will you write the score of my next
show for me? It’s called PARADE.”
Brown does, and wins a Tony for his efforts – all because “Just One
Step” got him the job.
Never mind CHICAGO’s “Miss Velma Kelly in an act of desperation.”
She is easily eclipsed by “Murray’s wife,” this unnamed woman in
“Just One Step.”
The lady threatens to jump off the terrace of her Fifth Avenue high-
rise apartment building because life is not worth living any longer.
The reason? Murray won’t buy her a new fur coat.
Mind you, she thinks she’s being reasonable, because she had asked
for a house in Quogue, and that was denied her. Compared to that, a
little fur is a drop in the financial bucket, so why won’t Murray come
Actually, she’s aware that her husband has long since stopped loving
her, but that bothers her less than this fur-free situation. Now she’s
been checkmated into taking this dramatic “step” because she’s tried
everything else and suicide is all that’s left to get his attention.
Speaking of attention, she’s getting some from news trucks that were
alerted and have now arrived at the scene. Add to this the madding
crowd that assembled, and our potential suicide is delighted that all
eyes are on her.
But we get the impression that Murray isn’t even listening to her rant.
The woman winds up revealing much more about herself than she’d
planned. She says she “knows” that Murray tells his friends that she’s
“embarrassing, fat, demanding and controlling” – and then realizes
that she’d better not remind Murray of these all-too-true qualities.
After bringing up that his mother never liked her, she grasps that
that isn’t a good idea, either. By now, Murray probably has come to
the conclusion that Mother Knew Best.
The song doesn’t show the famous bromide “Be careful what you
wish for,” but be careful, period. Brown gives us a surprise ending
that may well be the best possible solution to the dilemma.
Now for all I know, neither Daisy nor Hal Prince even heard “Just One
Step” when Brown first aired his songs for them. Perhaps he hadn’t
even written it at that point. Maybe the one that most impressed
either or both Princes was the one where a pauper meets a woman,
promises her the “Stars and the Moon” as well as eternal love – only
to find that she’s holding out for a man who can give her
champagne, yachts and cars.
She lands one. Nevertheless, Brown has her eventually realize that
money can bring happiness, yes, but only to a point.
Did the Princes come to cherish “The New World”? It establishes that
life can be beautiful right now but that doesn’t mean it’ll stay that
way. Every one of us is potentially and literally one second away from
Or perhaps the Princes were knocked out by “I’m Not Afraid of
Anything” a lovely yet powerful song about a wife and mother who’s
moving on … or “She Cries,” in which a man admits that he’s a
sucker for a woman’s tears and they keep him from doing what he
wants to do … or “The River Won’t Flow,” which acknowledges that
luck plays a bigger part in our lives that we might realize.
Certainly Hal Prince had to agree. What if way back when George
Abbott hadn’t taken a shine to him and he had to go work for
Anthony Brady Farrell, who was readying his production of ANKLES
AWEIGH, one of Broadway’s all-time horrors?
Well, who knows what got Hal Prince to commission Brown or, for
that matter, Daisy Prince to direct SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD , the
1995 revue of Jason Robert Brown songs that got the rest of us to
say “Here’s a guy with talent.”
But if I’d been there and Brown had played “Just One Step,” this is
the one that would have sent me over the stars and the moon.
“Just One Step” and all the other fine pieces that Brown collected
into for SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD were heard last weekend at
Encores! Off-Center, the summer series that revives off-Broadway
I was out-of-town lecturing at the International Thespian Festival in
Lincoln, Nebraska so I missed it. Who sang it? Shoshana Bean or
Solea Pfeiffer?Both are splendid performers, but I envy the one
chosen, because I’m sure she got applause and cheers that lasted for
a good, long time.
If you too couldn’t get there, the original cast album of SONGS FOR A
NEW WORLD is well worth hearing – especially for (need I add?)
“Just One Step.”
Peter Filichia also writes a column each Monday at
www.broadwayselect.com and each Friday at www.mtishows.com.
His book The Great Parade: Broadway’s Astonishing, Never-To-Be
Forgotten 1963-1964 Season is now available at www.amazon.com.