powered by FreeFind


A New Brain

cover to original cast recording

An autobiographical Musical. Music & lyrics by William Finn: Jason Robert Brown (arr.) Book by William Finn and James Lapine

Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center 14 May, 1998

Off-Broadway: Edinburgh Fringe 2005; Littlehampton, West Sussex 2006


A New Brain dealt directly with his own harrowing personal experience with arteriovenous malformation and the healing power of art. The hero, Gordon, worries that he may not live to complete his work. Finn wrote many of the songs soon after his release from the hospital.


Gordon Schwinn, a talented young songwriter, works at his piano to meet a deadline. Gordon is irritated because he must write a song about Spring for a children's television entertainer who dresses as a frog. He takes a break from his writing and meets his friend Rhoda at a restaurant for pasta. During lunch, Gordon clutches his head and falls face first into his meal. Rhoda calls an ambulance, and Gordon is taken to the hospital. He learns that he has a brain tumor and fluid build-up in his brain. Gordon needs an operation, and if he doesn't have it, he could die or never regain the use of his faculties.

While in the hospital, Gordon contemplates his situation. His greatest fear is dying with his greatest songs still inside of him; and so from his hospital bed, and in while in a coma, and all throughout his ordeal, he begins writing the songs. He also has several hallucinations that involve various people whom he has encountered. In particular, a homeless lady that he met on his way to get pasta with Rhoda continually pops up.

Gordon eventually has the surgery and recovers completely. The creative block he was experiencing before his ordeal lifts, and he gains new insights. His near death experience encourages him to re-evaluate and better appreciate the people and relationships in his life.


Musical numbers

  1. Frogs Have So Much Spring Within Them (The Spring Song) - Gordon
  2. Specials - Gordon, Rhoda, Waitress, Mr. Bungee
  3. 911 Emergency/ I Have So Many Songs - Richard, Waitress, Doctor, Rhoda, Minister, Lisa
  4. Heart and Music - Minister and Gordon & ensemble
  5. Trouble in His Brain - Doctor and Mimi
  6. Mother's Gonna Make Things Fine - Mimi and Gordon
  7. Be Polite - Mr Bungee
  8. Sailing - Roger and Gordon
  9. Family History - Nancy D, Richard, Mimi
  10. Gordo's Law of Genetics - Nancy D, Doctor, Minister, Rhoda, Richard, Lisa
  11. And They're Off - Gordon with Nancy D, Doctor, Minister, Rhoda, Richard, Lisa
  12. Just Go - Gordon and Roger
  13. Poor, Unsuccessful and Fat - Richard, Gordon, Mr. Bungee
  14. Sitting Becalmed in the Lee of Cuttyhunk - All but Mr. Bungee
  15. Craniotomy - Doctor, Nancy D, Minister
  16. Invitation to Sleep in My Arms - Gordon, Roger, Rhoda, Mimi
  17. Change - Lisa
  18. Yes - Gordon, Mr. Bungee with Nancy D, Doctor, Minister, Rhoda
  19. In the Middle of the Room - Gordon, Mimi
  20. Throw It Out - Mimi
  21. Really Lousy Day in the Universe - Roger and Lisa
  22. Brain Dead - Gordon and Roger
  23. Whenever I Dream - Rhoda and Gordon
  24. Eating Myself Up Alive - Richard with Nancy D, Doctor, Minister, Lisa
  25. Music Still Plays On - Mimi
  26. Don't Give In - Mr. Bungee with Gordon, Roger, Rhoda, Mimi
  27. You boys Are Gonna Get Me in Such Trouble/ Sailing (reprise) - Richard, Gordon, Roger
  28. Homeless Lady's Revenge - Lisa, Gordon, Roger
  29. Time - Roger and Gordon
  30. Time and Music - Minister,Gordon, and All
  31. I Feel So Much Spring - Gordon, Lisa, Minister and All