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A New Brain

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A New Brain is a musical with music and lyrics by

William Finn and book by Finn and James Lapine.
Though many of Finn's previous musicals were to some
extent autobiographical, A New Brain dealt directly with
his own harrowing experience with arteriovenous

A New Brain

malformation and the healing power of art.[1] The hero of

the musical, Gordon Schwinn, worries that he may not
live to complete his work. Finn wrote many of the songs
soon after his release from the hospital. The musical
premiered Off-Broadway in 1998 and has been revived in
the U.S., England and elsewhere.

1 Productions

CD Cover of the Original Cast Recording


William Finn


William Finn


William Finn
James Lapine


Autobiographical, William Finn


1998 Off-Broadway
2002 St. Louis
2015 Encores! Off-Center
International productions

2 Synopsis
3 Character List and Notable Casts
4 Musical numbers
5 Critical reception
6 Notes
7 References
8 External links

A New Brain started as a "series of songs that Bill Finn wrote after he left the hospital", with a concert of
those songs produced at The Public Theater.[2] A fully staged workshop production was held in 1996 and
again in 1997 and included contributions by Lapine.[2]
The musical was first produced Off-Broadway at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center, with
previews beginning on May 14, 1998 and closed on October 11, 1998.[3] The production was directed by
Graciela Daniele and featured a cast headed by Malcolm Gets (Gordon Michael Schwinn) and Christopher

Invar (Roger Delli-Bovi), including Michael Mandell (Richard), Penny Fuller (Mimi Schwinn), Mary Testa
(Lisa), Kristin Chenoweth (Waitress/Nancy D), Chip Zien (Mr. Bungee), Liz Larsen (Rhoda), John Jellison
(Doctor), and Keith Byron Kirk (Minister).[4] Lovette George was an understudy for Rhoda, Waitress, and
Nancy D.[1] Christopher Innvar left the show in June 1998 due to vocal problems, and Norm Lewis was to
sing the role of Roger on the recording.[3]
A cast recording was made under the RCA Victor label with Norm Lewis singing the role of Roger.[2][3][5]
A New Brain was next performed at Rice University during the Sid Richardson Players' 1999-2000 season.
It was also done at UC Berkeley BareStage during the 2000-2001 season, which transferred to Shotgun
Players in 2001. [6] The show was also produced in March 2002 in St. Louis, Missouri at New Line Theatre,
then premiered in the UK at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2005, with the English premiere in September
2006 in Littlehampton, West Sussex.[7]
The musical was presented as part of the Encores! Off-Center staged concert series June 2427, 2015 at the
New York City Center. The production included multiple rewrites by Finn and Lapine and was directed by
Lapine. It starred Jonathan Groff as Gordon and featured Dan Fogler as Mr. Bungee, Ana Gasteyer as Mimi,
and Aaron Lazar as Roger.[8]
A new, updated cast recording has been recorded by the cast of the Encores! Off-Center production and will
be released February 2016 by PS Classics. Unlike the original recording, this album a two-disc set will
contain the full show, including over 15 minutes of previously unrecorded music.[9]

Songwriter Gordon Schwinn works at his piano to meet a deadline, irritated because he must write a song
about spring for the children's television host Mr. Bungee, who dresses as a frog. Gordon takes a break from
his writing and meets his best friend Rhoda at a restaurant. During lunch, he clutches his head and falls face
first into his meal. Rhoda calls an ambulance, and Gordon is taken to the hospital, where he's administered
an MRI. His neurosurgeon tells him that he has an arteriovenous malformation, and needs an operation. If
he doesn't have it, he could die or never regain the use of his faculties.
While in the hospital, Gordon contemplates his situation, with his mother, Rhoda, and his boyfriend Roger.
Gordon's greatest fear is dying with his greatest songs still inside him. After the operation, Gordon falls into
a coma and while in that state, he hallucinates a surrealistic musical-within-a-musical starring the people in
his life; and ultimately, the hallucination-Bungee leads Gordon back to consciousness and to Roger.[10] He
recovers slowly and his near death experience teaches him to re-evaluate and better appreciate the people
and relationships in his life. With his life at last in balance, he is able to write again.

Character List and Notable Casts


1998 Original OffBroadway Cast

2015 City Center Encores!

Off-Center Cast

Gordon Michael Schwinn

(A lovable but sarcastic composer)

Malcolm Gets

Jonathan Groff

Mr. Bungee
(The slightly tyrannical director/producer/star of his
own childrens television show)

Chip Zien

Dan Fogler

Mimi Schwinn
(Gordos loving yet unstable mother)

Penny Fuller

Ana Gasteyer

Liz Larsen
(Gordos agent and ex-girlfriend-turned-best-friend)

Alyse Alan Louis

Roger Delli-Bovi
(Gordos charming and affectionate lover)

Christopher Innvar

Aaron Lazar

(A kind and compassionate nurse)

Michael Mandell

Josh Lamon

(A homeless lady)

Mary Testa

Rema Webb

Waitress/Nancy D.
Kristin Chenoweth
(The waitress is overbearing; Nancy is a mean nurse)

Jenni Barber

Dr. Jafar Berensteiner

(An unsympathetic doctor)

John Jellison

Bradley Dean

The Minister
(A somewhat clueless man of the cloth at the

Keith Byron Kirk

Quentin Earl Darrington

Musical numbers
"Frogs Have So Much Spring Within Them" (The Spring Song)(Gordon)
"Calamari" (Gordon, Rhoda, Waitress, Mr. Bungee)
"911 Emergency/ I Have So Many Songs" (Richard, Waitress, Doctor, Rhoda, Minister, Lisa)
"Heart and Music" (Minister and Gordon with All but Mr. Bungee)
"Trouble in His Brain" (Doctor and Mimi)
"Mother's Gonna Make Things Fine" (Mimi and Gordon)
"Be Polite" (Mr Bungee)*
"I'd Rather Be Sailing" (Roger with Gordon)
"Family History" (Nancy D, Richard, Mimi)
"Gordo's Law of Genetics" (Nancy D, Doctor, Minister, Rhoda, Richard, Lisa)
"And They're Off" (Gordon with Nancy D, Doctor, Minister, Rhoda, Richard, Lisa)
"Roger Has Arrived" (Gordon, Roger, Mother, and Rhoda)*
"Just Go" (Gordon and Roger)
"Poor, Unsuccessful and Fat" (Richard, Gordon, Mr. Bungee)
"Sitting Becalmed in the Lee of Cuttyhunk" (All but Mr. Bungee)
"Craniotomy" (Doctor, Nancy D, Minister)*
"Invitation to Sleep in My Arms" (Gordon, Roger, Rhoda, Mimi)
"Change" (Lisa)
"Yes" (Gordon, Mr. Bungee with Nancy D, Doctor, Minister, Rhoda)

"In the Middle of the Room" (Gordon, Mimi)

"Throw It Out" (Mimi)
"Really Lousy Day in the Universe" (Roger and Lisa)
"Brain Dead" (Gordon and Roger)
"Whenever I Dream" (Rhoda and Gordon)
"Eating Myself Up Alive" (Richard with Nancy D, Doctor, Minister, Lisa)
"Music Still Plays On" (Mimi)
"Don't Give In" (Mr. Bungee with Gordon, Roger, Rhoda, Mimi)
"You Boys Are Gonna Get Me in Such Trouble/ Sailing (reprise)" (Richard, Gordon, Roger)
"Homeless Lady's Revenge" (Lisa, Gordon, Roger)
"Time" (Roger and Gordon)
"Time and Music" (Minister, Gordon, and All)
"I Feel So Much Spring" (Gordon, Lisa, Minister and All)
*Not included in the Original Cast Recording

Critical reception
Ben Brantley, in his review for The New York Times, wrote: "The problem is that for Mr. Finn (and
probably, alas, for most people), happiness is definitely a blander muse than anxiety. A New Brain, which
has been directed with wit and elegance by Graciela Daniele, has moments of captivating eccentricity. But
watching it is often like passing a group of animated, slightly drunken revelers on the street: you're glad they
have something to celebrate, but it's a private party, and you walk on by with a faint smile. Mr. Finn
originally conceived what became A New Brain as a series of revue numbers, and it might have worked
better in that format. As a story, shaped by Mr. Finn and his longtime collaborator, James Lapine, the show
has a spliced-together feeling, a disjunctive quality at odds with the holistic spirit it seems to be aiming

1. "'A New Brain' at the Newhouse, Background, Cast and Creatives" (http://lct.org/showMain.htm?id=133).
Lincoln Center Theater, accessed December 27, 2011
2. Bishop, Andre. "'A New Brain' Liner Notes" (http://www.masterworksbroadway.com/music/a-new-brain#tracks).
MasterworksBroadway, accessed December 27, 2011
3. Haun, Harry and Lefkowitz, David and Simonson, Robert. "William Finn's 'New Brain' To Matter At NY
Newhouse Until Oct. 11" (http://www.playbill.com/news/article/39872-William-Finns-New-Brain-To-Matter-AtNY-Newhouse-Until-Oct-11). Playbill, June 30, 1998
4. Sommer, Elyse. "A Curtain up review" (http://www.curtainup.com/newbrain.html) curtainup.com, June 1998
5. A New Brain Original Cast Recording" (http://www.allmusic.com/album/a-new-brain-mw0000600635) all
music.com, accessed June 26, 2015
6. http://www.shotgunarchive.org/archive/seas10/newbrain/newbrain.cfm
7. Hand Picked Productions' website (http://www.handpickedproductions.com), Handpickedproductions.com,
accessed December 27, 2011
8. Gans, Andrew; Viagas, Robert (May 19, 2015). "Tony Winner Among Stars Joining Jonathan Groff in A New
Brain at Encores!". Playbill.com. Retrieved May 25, 2015.
9. Hetrick, Adam (October 19, 2015). "A New Brain, With Jonathan Groff, Will Get New Two-Disc Cast Album".
Playbill.com. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
10. Miller, Scott. "Inside A New Brain" (http://www.newlinetheatre.com/brainchapter.html), accessed July 11, 2014
11. Brantley, Ben. "Theater Review; A Romp Through the Valley of Death"

(http://partners.nytimes.com/library/theater/061998brain-theater-review.html) The New York Times, June 19,

1998, accessed June 27, 2015

A New Brain summary & character descriptions (http://stageagent.com/Shows/View/1095) from
A Curtain up review, June 1998 (http://www.curtainup.com/newbrain.html)

External links
Internet Off-Broadway Database listing, 'A New Brain'
Review from NY Theatre (http://megsplace.com/mgc/nytheatre.html)
William Finn (http://www.americantheatrewing.org/downstagecenter/detail/william_finn) Downstage Center interview at American Theatre Wing.org, December 2006
Littlehampton (http://www.handpickedproductions.com/) - England Premiere (August 2006)
Acting Up Stage (http://www.actingupstage.com/anewbrain) - Toronto Premiere (February 2009)
Pipedream Theatre Project (http://www.pipedream.ca) - Vancouver Premiere (June 2009)
[1] (http://theatrepeople.com.au/features/new-brain) - University of Melbourne Music Theatre
Association interview with director, Allie Sutherland (October 2010)
""A New Brain' Plot and songs at guidetomusicaltheatre.com
[2] (http://www.moonboxproductions.org/) - Moonbox at Boston's BCA March 15 - April 6, 2013
[3] (http://www.muziektheater-totaal.nl)- Theater De Lieve Vrouw Amersfoort November 2013 Februari 2014. Reinier Bavinck, Angelique Severs
Retrieved from "https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=A_New_Brain&oldid=693418938"
Categories: 1998 musicals Off-Broadway musicals Musicals inspired by real-life events
LGBT-related musicals Musicals by William Finn
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