A New Brain

A NoHo Arts theatre review of Celebration Theatre’s production of The Finn & Lapin musical, A New Brain.
Amanda Kruger (they/them) and the company of the Celebration Theatre in association with the Los Angeles LGBT Center

[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts theatre review of Celebration Theatre’s production of The Finn & Lapin musical, A New Brain, directed by Khanisha Foster, musical direction by Gregory Nabours, and choreography by Alli Miller-Fisher running through June 24. 

Two firsts for me. First time at the rather lovely Davidson/Valentini Theatre, part of the splendid Los Angeles LGBT Center, and the first time seeing the absolutely brilliant musical A New Brain.

Written in the late 90s, A New Brain follows the story of Gordon, a songwriter who passes out into their lunch one day and wakes up at the hospital to the news that they have an arteriovenous malformation…something that actually happened to the writer of the book, William Finn. They are told they must have a very dangerous operation or die. And so the scene is set.

The musical is performed as one act, with no intermission and the characters range from Gordon to their girlfriend Roger, Gordon’s mother Mimi, a nice nurse, a bad nurse, a homeless woman, a doctor, a minister and a very rude and demanding man-sized frog puppet TV star, for whom Roger works as a songwriter.

A NoHo Arts theatre review of Celebration Theatre’s production of The Finn & Lapin musical, A New Brain.
Amanda Kruger (they/them) and Richardson Cisneros-Jones (he/him)

The entire play is set to music, opera like, and within minutes this seems like the most natural way in the world to tell this funny, dramatic and oddly charming story. The songs are wonderful, vivid, brutally honest, highly creative and strangely familiar. It has the air of a Charlie Kaufman film. Surreal but instantly relatable. 

And the performances…well, what can I say. Excellent. In fact, I was so excited to share this gem of a show that I called several friends on the way home and now I plan to see it again with my husband.  And I rarely do that. Promise. 

A NoHo Arts theatre review of Celebration Theatre’s production of The Finn & Lapin musical, A New Brain.
Amanda Kruger (they/them) and the company of the Celebration Theatre in association with the Los Angeles LGBT Center

Everyone is incredibly good. Endearing, perfectly cast and with the most wonderful voices. Many of the songs are sung in chorus with most of the cast which is so beautifully done. 

The theatre is a small ‘in the round’ so the actors use the sides of the theatre, in amongst the seating, to enter and exit, to perform from and to pop in and out of. It’s a bit magical. But then of course the whole story is…even though it’s based on real life. Roald Dahl is another good reference point and I’m aware that these are film references, even though Roald Dahl is an author, but this musical has a truly cinematic feel. Close ups abound! Maybe it’s the close quarters in the theatre too. There is no separation from the actors and the audience really, so each audience member has their own unique perspective of the show depending on where they are sitting, which is lovely and nuanced and such an interesting way to see a musical of this caliber. 

And may I just come back to the actors again? How incredibly excellent they are, each and every one. Heart stoppingly good.  It must be something else to be inches away from your audience and singing at full volume, moving with the rest of the cast and completely immersed in character.  They don’t miss a beat. Utterly mesmerizing.

I cannot recommend A New Brain enough. Go and see this show!!!! I loved it!

You have a while, the run end June 24, but time is fleeting…so get your tickets now!

Tickets:

https://ci.ovationtix.com/36684/production/1147361

When:

Running through June 24

Where:

The Davidson/Valentini Theatre
1125 N. McCadden PlI., Los Angeles 90028

The Cast 

The cast will feature: Amanda Kruger (they/them) as “Gordon Schwinn,” Yassi Noubahar (she/her) as “Roger Delli-Bovi,” Richardson Cisneros-Jones (he/him) as “Mr. Bungee,” Gina Torrecilla (she/her) as “Mimi Schwinn,” Ryan O’Connor (he/they) as “Nurse Richard,” Whitney Avalon (she/her) as “Lisa,” Sadé Ayodele (she/her) as “Rhoda,” Mitchell Johnson (he/they) as “Dr. Jafar Berensteiner,” Jason Ryan (he/him) as “The Minister,” and Gabi Van Horn (she/her) as “Nurse Nancy/Waitress.”

The Team

A New Brain has assembled an award-winning design team; Scenic Design by Stephen Gifford (he/him); Lighting Design by Matt Richter (he/him).  Costume Design by Allison Dillard (she/her); Sound Design by M. Glenn Schuster (they/them), Properties Design by Michael O’Hara (he/him). The Casting Director is Jami Rudofsky (she/her). Amy Rowell is the Production Stage Manager (she/her). A New Brain is produced by Nathaniel Mathis (he/him).