BWW Review: A NEW BRAIN at Nutley Little Theatre
"A New Brain" opens at Nutley Little Theatre this Friday September 8th at 8 PM with a benefit for the Nutley Family Services Bureau.
From the creative team behind the Tony Award-winning hit, "Falsettos," "A New Brain" is a musical about Gordon Schwinn, a neurotic, frustrated composer, confronted with creative block and a terminal illness, who finds salvation in the healing power of art. Music and lyrics by William Finn, book by Finn and James Lapine. It is an autobiographical story of the show's composer William Finn based on when he was recovering from a brain injury. The show began as a series of songs dealing with his recovery.
The musical, while dealing with a serious matter, induces a ton of laughs, not only thanks to the writing, but to the actors onstage. From the nervous patient, to the mean nurse, the nightmare of a boss and many more, this cast breathes energetic life into their characters, which makes for a great night of entertainment. Gordon's hellish boss, Mr. Bungee, played by the hilarious Tim White, sings two of the funniest songs in the show "Be Polite to Everyone" and "Yes."
The cast of characters each play a part in Gordon's life, including a Homeless Lady who helps drive the story along and three young ladies who portray Mr. Bungee's Tadpoles who help set each scene. While they all surround him in his time of need, their emotions are revealed. Songs in the show such as "Time and Music," "I Feel So Much Spring," and "The Music Still Plays on," are just a few of the songs that are sure to tug at your heart strings!
"A New Brain" is directed by Juliana Valente of Wayne. "I was looking specially at Off-Broadway shows because it's such a small space and although I love so many big Broadway shows, there are so many wonderful things that can happen in a black box space... This show isn't done very often, it's autobiographical and super fun and interesting!" Valente also spoke on the challenges of the show. "There is no chorus, but there are multiple main characters. Every character in this show is pretty important on this journey and what you might think of as a secondary or tertiary character like Richard, has three major solos! So every singer is a soloist in his or her own right, but you also have to be really great at ensemble singing and A cappella and a lot of different styles."
Michael Smith-Gallowho plays Roger Delli-Bovi, Gordon's boyfriend said "It was definitely the part that I felt most right for at auditions... I have a lot in common with this guy but also a lot that's not in common which is that he is such a source of calm and equipoise which... is not me! It's nice to come in every night and be everyone's rock but then come into the second act and I need a rock and I don't have one... It was also nice to play someone in community theater who is gay but not campy... My role was just to exist as a gay New Yorker and I've done that for years so that's easy!" Smith-Gallowho also spoke on the show's challenges, "It's deceptively hard. You think you're just going to go in and sing something sing-songy and then you realize 'Oh no, these rhythms are not fooling around!"
Jason Gillis portrays the leading man Gordon Schwinn. "This is the first time I've ever played a romantic lead. I'm usually the 'wocka wocka character... it's been interesting to be on stage almost the entire time and to not get the laughs since I'm so use to being the one that gets the laughs and I had to be okay with not being that person. I love this show I love this piece so much! I think it's such an important piece because it is a story about a gay person that's not a coming out story and it's not an AIDS story. It's just a story about the struggles that we all go through as human beings and it just happens to be about gay people and I that, that is so affirming and so important for people to see... and one of the things that drew me to this show a long time ago was that gay characters tend to be the same type of character and this one is so unlike any others... the fact that a gay person could be a source of strength and could be the hero and could overcome these challenges and to fall in love... is pretty revolutionary especially considering that this show was on Broadway in the 90's! "
Gills and Smith-Gallowho had a joint message for readers, "Come see the show!"
Cast (in order of appearance)
Gordon Schwinn: Jason Gillis
Mr. Bungee/Dr. Jafar Berensteiner: Tim White
Mr. Bungee's Tadpole: Alyssa Vause
Mr. Bungee's Tadpole: Julia Resnick,
Mr. Bungee's Tadpole/The Minister understudy: Catherine Villa
Lisa (A homeless lady): Ginny S. Crooks
Rhoda: Christina Weakland
Waitress/Nancy D.: Chelsea Varga
Richard: Kevin Ohlweiler
The Minister/Mimi understudy: Kay Koch
Mimi Schwinn: Jessica Katz
Roger Delli-Bovi: Michael Smith-Gallo
Marsha Schreier, Music Director
Juliana Valente, Director
Geri Roatti, Stage Manager
Amy Sellars, Costume Manager
Dickson Lane, Set Designer
Jonny Dive, Lighting Designer
The show runs for three weekends: September 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 22, & 23 @ 8:00 pm and September 10, 17, & 23 @ 2pm
Nutley Little Theatre
47 Erie Pl. Nutley, NJ 07110