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Theatre Review (Glendale CA): A New Brain by William Finn at the Alex Theatre

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William Finn is one interesting guy, known for his trilogy of short musicals, In Trousers, March of the Falsettos, and Falsettoland. They centered on the story of a central character, Marvin, his boyfriend Whizzer, his ex-wife Trina, his son Jason, and his psychiatrist Mendel. Finn later joined March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland into one musical, Falsettos, which went on to win Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Book.

Finn is a highly biographical composer and in 1992 he suffered from dizziness and partial paralysis: He had arteriovenous malformation, or AVM. He turned his experience into a musical called A New Brain. He said that for a year after the successful surgery he felt like he had “a new brain.” Yes, he wrote a musical about his brain illness and surgery. But more than that, the musical examined how those in his most intimate circle, including his doctor and nurse, interacted with him as a patient. The result is a quirky but very moving musical, full of Finn’s music which I feel demands to be listened to.

Musical Theatre Guild, which performs at the Alex Theatre in Glendale with only 25 hours of rehearsal, put on an excellent version of A New Brain. The cast of highly talented actors included Stuart Ambrose, Eileen Barnett, Joshua Finkel, David Holmes, Eric McEwen, the super-talented Michael A. Shepperd, Jill Marie Burke, Melissa Fahn, and Kevin McMahon as the lead. The show had extra meaning for McMahon since he himself had undergone successful brain surgery. He is currently touring in the Broadway hit Wicked but took time off to do this role. He was riveting and very moving, also very funny.

Todd Nielson was the director and Gerald Sternbach the musical director. This excellent show was performed at the Alex Theatre on April 16.

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