THEATRE NOVA, in collaboration with the RINGWALD THEATRE
A NEW BRAIN
music and lyrics by William Finn
book by William Finn and James Lapine
A Filmed Version of the Musical Comedy
Watch via Broadway on Demand
June 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20
Theatre NOVA, in collaboration with The Ringwald Theatre, will release their filmed version of "A New Brain" by William Finn and James Lapine via Broadway on Demand during June of 2021. By the Tony Award-winning authors of "Falsettos," "A New Brain" is a life-affirming, heartfelt, often comical musical about a composer during a medical emergency. As doctors and nurses fly in and out of his room, trying to figure out what's wrong with his brain, Gordon drifts in and out of consciousness as he contemplates his life, legacy, and the meaning of music - all while navigating his relationships with his best friend, mother, and boyfriend. "A New Brain" is an unexpectedly funny, relatable, and ultimately touching meditation on how beautiful the world is when we slow down enough to look.
With special permission and a unique COVID-19 Contingency License from Concord Theatricals, Theatre NOVA and The Ringwald Theatre shot the musical over a period of two weeks to ensure that all COVID protocols and safety procedures could be upheld. The cast spent the month of March learning and rehearsing the all-sung show over Zoom with music director R. MacKenzie Lewis.
"A New Brain" was available ON DEMAND on June 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, and 20. Tickets were $25 per person. Ticket-holders watched the show on Broadway On Demand on their computers, tablets, smartphones, and TV via the Broadway on Demand App, using AppleTV, Roku, all compatible Amazon Video devices. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Cranky Critic Review
“...well-worth seeing. Given the show’s pedigree, I assumed the production would be well cast and creatively staged. What I didn’t expect, however, was how such an OK script could become so much more powerful and memorable because of their efforts. Diane Hill as Gordon’s neurotic mother, Mimi, has two numbers that sizzle. It’s a heart-wrenching performance, as Mimi’s emotions bubble up and explode – and it serves as a reminder of just what a kick-ass actress Hill is in such roles. One image burned into my memory bank is Richards as a contemplative Mr. Bungee, sitting in his darkened studio, a cigarette dangling from his lips. As played by Richards, his number, “Don’t Give In,” is especially revealing. (Richards is another whose character work is always top-notch.) A pleasant surprise was the inclusion of popular actor Steve DeBruyne in the production. His is a voice I could listen to all day, and he has plenty of fun with the role of Doctor Berensteiner. Others in the cast are Jason Briggs as sympathetic (and handsy) nurse Richard, the show’s comic relief and the lone voice of compassion, and he lights up the stage whenever he’s the focus of a scene. Arielle Crosby likely has the strongest, sweetest, and most polished singing voice in the show, and she’s a delight. Alaina Kerr is perfectly annoying as the waitress whose jabbering helps initiate Gordon’s attack, and later, as mean nurse Nancy. Most impressive, however, are longtime friends and collaborators Richard Payton as Gordon and Vince Kelley as Richard, Gordon’s boyfriend. The two certainly up their already incredible game here, as we watch both individually and together sort through their strained relationship and come out better at the end. But be forewarned: Keep your Kleenex ready, as the power of video closeups magnifies and personalizes their story far better than a stage play ever could. As the saying goes, they “keep it real” – and as such, their audience has ringside seats as the couple’s emotions seep through the lyrics and dialog, and as a result they create real, struggling, and loving people we can identify with as they work through a scary time in their lives. ...it’s a far superior viewing experience than any Zoom production I’ve seen."
(L to R): Arielle Crosby and Vince Kelley in A New Brain by William Finn and James Lapine roduced by Theatre NOVA in collaboration with The Ringwald Theatre.
Photo by Jake B. Turner.
OnStage Blog Review
“Theatre NOVA of Ann Arbor, Michigan and Ringwald Theatre of Ferndale, Michigan have teamed up to produce a moving and beautiful production of Willian Finn and James Lapine’s “A New Brain,” a musical that focuses on how we can make the most of the time we have to be with others. Kelley is to be praised for finding that perfect balance between what works on a stage and what works on a screen. While the show was highly theatrical, using stage movement, visible light and singing delivered directly to the audience, Kelley also made the most of the film medium to bring out the pitfalls and strengths of each relationship. “A New Brain” is a beautiful story that encourages audiences to question what their priorities are, what truly matters to them in life. While it treats on health, death, fear and breaks in relationship, it never ceases to be entertaining and filled with laughter at the absurdities of life. Theatre NOVA and The Ringwald Theatre are to be commended for the way they have made this musical work and bringing it to a theater-starved audience."
At the beginning of April, the cast transitioned to socially distanced and masked in-person music rehearsals at Theatre NOVA. Finally, with all of the cast and crew partially or fully vaccinated and all participants COVID-tested, director Vince Kelley and cinematographer Jake Turner rehearsed and shot the show over a 12-day period, scene by scene, with arduous planning about how it would all be stitched together in post-production. This schedule allowed them to have the fewest people in the theatre at once, but also provided very new experiences for the stage actors who were accustomed to rehearsing a play for 4-6 weeks. The crew and cast wrapped the filming on April 24. The cast includes Jason Briggs, Arielle Crosby, Steve DeBruyne, Diane Hill, Vince Kelley, Alaina Kerr, Richard Payton (Gordon), Jamie Richards, and Liz Schultz. The production team includes Vince Kelley (director, costumer), R. MacKenzie Lewis (music director, musical tracks), Jake Turner (set designer, cinematographer, sound engineer, editor), Dan Morrison (lighting designer), Brandy Joe Plambeck (additional camera work), and Briana O'Neal (stage manager). "A New Brain" will run for three weekends in June 2021.
(L to R): Jason Briggs, Steve DeBruyne, Alaina Kerr, Diane Hill, Richard Payton, Vince Kelley, Arielle Crosby, Liz Schultz, and Jamie Richards in A New Brain by William Finn and James Lapine roduced by Theatre NOVA in collaboration with The Ringwald Theatre. Photo by Jake B. Turner.
Reel Roy Reviews
“Sometimes joy has a terrible cost.” Theatre NOVA & The Ringwald Theatre’s filmed co-production of A New Brain
“This is an all-star team, and it shows. The cinematography, lighting, sound, and edits are all on point. Every actor has iconic moments. Kelley, being an actor himself, is clearly a director who knows how to frame actorly impulses to benefit both the individual performer and the overall needs of the narrative. Payton has the heaviest lift, rarely leaving the stage, and he plays our protagonist Gordon with an impish poignancy and deeply layered inner life. Hill’s numbers – both with Payton and solo – are all standouts: the wry neurosis of “Mother’s Gonna Make Things Fine,” the incendiary comedy of “Throw It Out,” and the smoldering regret of “Music Still Plays On.” Crosby electrifies whenever she enters the picture as a wise and whimsical homeless person/Greek chorus. Her line delivery and physicality can be piercingly funny and deeply heartbreaking, depending on the moment, and her singing his divine. Speaking of soaring vocals, someone get DeBruyne and Payton to record an album of pop standard duets stat. Kerr and Briggs are also great fun in a handful of ensemble parts, bringing deft comic chops and a much-appreciated nibble or two on the scenery. Turner is wearing many hats, and the slick integration of cinematography and design roles is evident in the final product. Morrison does fine work with the lighting cues which remain overtly theatrical (appropriate for the piece) while honoring the more naturalistic needs of the camera.
And Lewis deserves special recognition for his music direction here. Onscreen at times and always accompanying the cast on piano, he has created a lush and enveloping soundscape without the benefit of an orchestra or, well, much time. It’s a remarkable achievement."
(L to R): Richard Payton, R. MacKenzie Lewis, Diane Hill, Vince Kelley, Jason Briggs, and Liz Schultz in A New Brain by William Finn and James Lapine produced by Theatre NOVA in collaboration with The Ringwald Theatre. Photo by Jake B. Turner.
(L to R): Jason Briggs, Vince Kelley, Diane Hill, Alaina Kerr, Richard Payton, Steve DeBruyne, Liz Schultz, and Arielle Crosby in A New Brain by William Finn and James Lapine roduced by Theatre NOVA in collaboration with The Ringwald Theatre.
Photo by Jake B. Turner.