Theatre Horizon to Kick Off Season with A NEW BRAIN
Theatre Horizon will kick off their 12th season with a production of William Finn and James Lapine's heartfelt and hilarious autobiographical musical, A New Brain. This energetic musical runs October 13-November 6th at Theatre Horizon. Opening Night is Thursday, October 20 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $30-$45. Theatre Horizon is located at 401 Dekalb Street. Tickets and more information are available online at www.theatrehorizon.org or by phone at 610-283-2230.
Based on an actual event in the life of Tony Award-winner William Finn (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Falsettos), A New Brain features music and lyrics by Finn and a book by Tony Award-winner James Lapine (Into the Woods) and Finn. A New Brain explores one man's quest for a second chance at life. After children's television composer Gordon Michael Schwinn is diagnosed with a potentially fatal brain condition, he reexamines his life and legacy with help from his family, relentless humor, and the occasional hallucination. As he comes to terms with his creative ambitions and family relationships, audiences are treated to a gorgeous musical about how we chose to spend the time we are given.
Barrymore Award-winning Actor and Lansdale native Steve Pacek returns to Theatre Horizon following a run as the lead in Hand to God at the Alley Theatre in Texas. He leads the cast as Gordon. He was last seen at Theatre Horizon in the Barrymore Award-winning Into the Woods. Rachel Camp returns to Theatre Horizon after her Barrymore Award-nominated performance in last season's Lobby Hero as Gordon's manager and friend Rhoda. Susan Riley Stevens makes her Theatre Horizon debut as Gordon's mother, Mimi.
Peter Carrier makes his Theatre Horizon debut as Gordon's partner, Roger. Christian Eason, who appeared on the last season of American Idol, plays the Minister. Larry Lees (who re-orchestrated Into the Woods for Theatre Horizon's Barrymore Award-winning production) plays Dr. Jafar Berensteiner. Doug Hara makes his Theatre Horizon debut as Mr. Bungee, the children's show host Gordon writes songs for. Melissa Joy Hart returns to Theatre Horizon to play Lisa, a homeless woman. Rob Tucker makes his Theatre Horizon debut as the nurse Richard and Mini Kawahara makes her Theatre Horizon debut as Nancy D. (another nurse) and Waitress.
Theatre Horizon Resident Director Matthew Decker directs this piece, reuniting with his Into the Woods Team of Amanda Morton as Music Director and Jenn Rose as Choreographer. Brian Dudkiewicz is the Set Designer. Oona Curley is the Lighting Designer. Jillian Keys is the Costume Designer and Nick Kortides is the Sound Designer. Christopher Haig is the Props Master. Alison Hassman is the Stage Manager. The orchestra includes: cellist Justin Yoder, drummer Kanako Omea Neale, and Madison Auch playing synthesizer.
For both Matthew Decker and Steve Pacek, this is a show they have been connected to for a long time. Decker first encountered the show 15 years ago as a student at NYU. Pacek performed the role of Gordon in a concert as a senior at Ithaca College. Decker also directed a concert version of the show at 11th Hour Theatre Company in the Spring of 2015 where Pacek played the lead. Susan Riley Stevens, Doug Hara, Rob Tucker, and Larry Lees all appeared in their same roles in the concert as well.
Said Decker, "Over the years, I've occasionally returned to listening to the soundtrack. And as what happens with most pieces of art as we age, my response to the material deepened. This musical is about a lot of things - a man suddenly asked to face his fear of mortality, a family attempting to support their loved one through a potentially fatal illness, and the idea of leaving behind a legacy that one is proud of - but I think what strikes me now is the idea of time well spent. Gordon discovers that before he got sick, he didn't really spend his time in a meaningful way. And suddenly his time may be running out. We all only get a finite amount of time on this earth, and this musical illuminates for me how imperative it is that we choose to spend that time in a way that is valuable and fulfilling to us, surrounded by love and joy."
For Decker, the show comes at the end of a family tragedy. "...This is a personal project for me in many ways. I recently lost my mother after her 15 month battle with lung cancer. As one can imagine, it was a profound and life-changing experience for me and my family. Though what Gordon is experiencing is different from what my mother went through, I can greatly relate to the hospital scenes, interactions with the doctors and nurses, and the family's fear and struggle to support their loved one through this tragedy. We had programmed this piece before my mother's death and there have been many moments through the design and casting process where I thought that I wouldn't be able to direct this play. However, I greatly believe in the therapeutic and healing power of art. And I think that audiences will connect to Gordon and his family's experience because we all have or will go through something like it. And though I think that directing this musical will be challenging and emotional, it will be ultimately rewarding and quite beautiful because it will provide a forum for me, the theatre, and the audience members to connect over our shared experiences."
The director is also excited about the music and the cast he has assembled: "The score to A New Brain is terrific. The music is buoyant and energetic, yet the lyrics are biting and filled with irony, and the harmonies are rich and electrifying. I am so thrilled to gather the singers that we have in this cast and hear them rip through the score. I directed a reading of A New Brain with 11th Hour Theatre Company as part of their Next Step Concert Series where Steve Pacek playEd Gordon. His understanding of the material was profound and moving and I wanted Theatre Horizon's audience to experience his performance. Steve is such a giving and sensitive artist - his work is always personal, vulnerable and heartfelt - and our audience has such a lovely relationship with him. I think his connection to the material combined with the audience's connection to Steve will create a very powerful and memorable evening at the theatre. "
Pacek is looking forward to reuniting a lot of the team from the 11th Hour Concert. The concert rehearsal and performance was only a week long. He is excited to really mine the material and return to a role he truly loves with a great team.
"I have always loved the work of William Finn. He writes with so much humor and pathos and emotion. And I love how this story treats a gay relationship the same as any other relationship. Love is love. And family is family. It doesn't need to make it anything special or different. It's just life as ALL PEOPLE know it. I also REALLY LOVE the music. Such great songs and stories. Heart and music," said Pacek. "And as with any role, I try to put as much of "me" into it as possible. What would I do in these situations? As someone who has come face to face with the fear that death puts in us all, I feel the resonance of using my art to outlast me. To create something that I might be remembered for ... These plays, these songs, these stories. They are here one minute and then gone the next, just like us, but they are remembered. We carry them with us. So I definitely love that message of the piece. I also really LOVE that Gordo is imperfect. When the shit hits the fan, he reacts. Maybe it's not always the "best" or the "right" choice, but he makes a decision. In my own life, I try very hard to be "put together." I try to steady the waves. But to tell the story of Gordo is to be reminded that we are allowed to be messy. We are allowed to be scared. We are allowed to be human. There's something freeing in that..."
He finishes, "I hope our audiences come away with the understanding that people are people, we are all one in the same. We all go through the same journeys. We're all scared. We all lose. We all hurt and we all have the capacity to love and be loved in return. Hopefully, it will inspire those who come to hold out for hope. Hope in the face of great struggle. Hope in the face of insurmountable odds. Hope when it seems like there ain't nothing left but a wing and a prayer. There's always hope...and that can carry us through."
The Honorary Producers of the show are Raymond Decker, in Memory of Michele Decker, and Chris and Lee van de Velde. Theatre Horizon's Season Sponsors are iCeutica, Bright Light, Brandywine Realty Trust, Montgomery County College Lively Arts Series, Gretz Beer, and Beneficial Bank.
Theatre Horizon brings Philadelphia's finest actors to Norristown, staging a three-show season and teaching drama to almost 900 children per year. Located on Arts Hill in the heart of Montgomery County, Theatre Horizon is an award-winning company dedicated to the revitalization of Norristown. Theatre Horizon is also known for pioneering a unique drama program that uses actors to teach socialization skills to children with autism. For more information about Theatre Horizon, call 610.283.2230 or visit www.theatrehorizon.org.