Foundry Players A New BrainBy Laura & Mike Clark • Nov 9th, 2007 • Category: Reviews
Anyone with One Will Love Brain
They always said reality was better than any fiction, and words couldn’t be truer in this case. A New Brain is an autobiographical musical recount of the experiences of its composer, William Finn. It is also the latest production of the Foundry Players. Finn based this musical off of his own traumatic experience with arteriovenous malformation, a congenital disorder of the connections between veins and arteries in the vascular system, and his resulting brain surgery. Think that’s a strange idea to focus a musical around? You haven’t seen A New Brain.
Few theatres could tackle such a heavy, emotion-filled show as flawlessly as the Foundry Players. The show synopsis is as follows: Gordon Schwinn, a talented young songwriter (aka Finn), works for Mr. Bungee, a children’s show frog (think Barney). And boy howdy, does he ever loathe writing for the rude little toad. During a lunch with his agent/friend Rhonda, he essentially collapses. Hurried to the hospital, he quickly discovers he has a brain tumor and must have an operation or face probable death. Gordon enters the hospital and thinks over his life. He fears that he will never be able to write his greatest songs and feels that it may now be too late to give his music to the world. Fortunately, he writes one heck of a song (the remarkably well done “Don’t Give In”) while in a coma following the surgery and recovers completely! With a new zest for life, Gordon treasures the people and opportunities presented to him daily. Happy times all around.
I was highly impressed with the show and its performers. John Loughney portrays Gordon Schwinn brilliantly. A first-rate actor, he has a Steve Carell quality about him with a subtle comedic aspect ala “Little Miss Sunshine”. Loughney has a lovely and unforgettable voice. As his obnoxious muse, Mr. Bungee, Patrick McMahan is absolutely hilarious. He’s almost Will Ferrell to Loughney’s Carell. He pokes and prods him much to the audience’s delight. A comic tour-de-force, McMahan has a killer voice to boot. Helen Bard-Sobola plays Gordon’s mother; and though she sings very pleasantly, I kept wanting her to take her acting further. She had several potentially powerful solos that left me wanting…just more. As Gordon’s boyfriend, Joshua Redford was certainly handsome enough for the job. He seemed a little uncomfortable with the range of the part but won me over in his duet with Loughney (“Just Go”). However, the one who blew me away was Katie McManus. She plays a homeless woman. Judging from her appearance, I never expected her to have such a powerful belt. Her solo, “Change”, is an absolute show-stopper. It’s great acting and fantastic singing wrapped up in one. McManus’s star shines brightly amongst this cast of professionals. The ensemble was also amazing. The music director deserves a big pat on the back. With tight harmonies and a chorus of strong singers, songs like “Gordo’s Law of Genetics” were immensely enjoyable. The staging of this number was attention-grabbing. It’s a toss up between this and “Change” for my favorite song of the show.
Foundry has a nice space. There’s not a bad seat in the house, and everything can be heard. Set, lights, and direction were all superb. The dance moves were interesting. The orchestra was up to par and played particularly marvelously.
I highly recommend that this show be seen by all who can make it. I had more fun watching this production than some Broadway musicals I’ve seen. The Foundry Players should be proud. They’ve hit a home run with this show.
Reviewed by Missy Ann Wilmoth
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Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.