This autobiographical 1998 musical from Tony Award winner William Finn (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) is a medical tragedy as seen through the iris of a Looney Tunes short. After struggling composer Gordon Michael Schwinn (Tony Award nominee Jonathan Groff) collapses at the piano, he is diagnosed with a brain tumor and is forced to come to terms with his creative ambitions and the people in his life: an overbearing mother (Ana Gasteyer), a ruthless kiddie-show host (Tony Award winner Dan Fogler), and a boyfriend who’d “rather be sailing” (Aaron Lazar).
“A top-flight physical production…a reminder of why Encores! is such an essential New York institution.” – The New York Times
“A profoundly moving production…Groff offers his finest, most stirring work to date.” – TheaterMania
“Revelatory…cast nearly to perfection.” – New York Magazine
Running Time: Approximately 1 hour 45 minutes, no intermission
A New Brain is part of the 2015 Encores! Off-Center season, which also features Little Shop of Horrors and The Wild Party.
"From the Dressing Room"
with Jonathan Groff
A New Brain
Cast & Credits
Music and Lyrics by William Finn
Book by William Finn and James Lapine
Directed by James Lapine
Choreography by Josh Prince
Starring Jenni Barber, Quentin Earl Darrington, Bradley Dean, Dan Fogler, Ana Gasteyer, Jonathan Groff, Josh Lamon, Aaron Lazar, Alyse Alan Louis, and Rema Webb
The Lobby Project is a series of free performances, conversations, and readings that will place the Encores! Off-Center shows in the context of its legacy and provide insights into the work the audience is about to experience. The events will take place in City Center’s beautiful Grand Tier lobby one hour before curtain and are free for that evening’s ticket holders. Each Lobby Project event will be 45 minutes long.
Matt Wilson: Clown Doctor
When: Fri June 26 at 7pm
A New Brain explores the world of the hospital with equal parts humor and pathos. Matt Wilson has done the same—not only does his theater piece Clown Baggage explore doctor-patient relationships through the lens of clowning, but he has worked for over a decade as a “clown doctor” in youth hospitals throughout the country, bringing spit takes and pratfalls to those who need them most. Wilson will perform an excerpt from his piece and discuss the art of clowning.
Dr. Rita Charon and Narrative Medicine
When: Sat June 27 at 1pm
Dr. Rita Charon is the Founder and Executive Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University. Beginning as a general internist, Dr. Charon got a Ph.D. in English after being struck by the centrality of storytelling in the relationship between doctors and patients. Her pioneering work has a direct parallel in the storytelling process in musicals—particularly the medically themed A New Brain. Dr. Charon will lead an interactive workshop and share her beliefs about the importance of narrative medicine.
A Conversation with Jonathan Groff
When: Sat June 27 at 7pm
Jonathan Groff has a personal connection to A New Brain that stretches far beyond this production. “You know how when you grow up listening to things, they become part of the fabric of your mind?” he says. “This is one of those scores for me.” Groff will discuss his history with the material and his process of getting into the character of composer Gordon Schwinn (spoiler: he learned to play the piano for the role).