I'm a big fan of William Finn and A New Brain. Frankly, I never thought there would be a second full cast album to compare to the original (a recording I highly recommend you buy!) And perhaps comparisons aren't fair, but who can help it? A New Brain is a semi-autobiographical musical about a harried songwriter named Gordon who works for the monstrous star of a children's show. His life takes a dramatic turn when he has to go into surgery for a brain tumor, where his lover, his mother, his friend, his boss, a homeless woman, and the hospital staff all help Gordon deal with the inconceivable. Sounds heavy, and it has those moments, but most of all it's warm and funny, with some of Finn's most beautiful songs ("I'd Rather Be Sailing," "I Feel So Much Spring," "Heart and Music.")
The original soundtrack is pretty darn wonderful, with great performances from Broadway stars like Kristin Chenoweth (in one of her first roles), Malcolm Gets, Mary Testa and Chip Zien, among others. The new recording is more complete, so you finally have the chance to piece together some of the lapses between songs. Not all of those bridges are especially interesting, but it's always a good thing to have essentially the entire musical at your fingertips to listen to.
So what a musical theatre fan ends up doing is comparing performances. The real revelation to me is Ana Gasteyer as Gordo's mom. Penny Fuller did it in the original and was fine, but there's something more serious and compelling for me in what Gasteyer does here. I'm a big fan of Jonathan Groff, and if he seems a little young to me for this role, he still sings and acts it quite well. Other characters are portrayed differently from the original, sometimes in quite an interesting contrast (such as the male nurse), but I can't say I like any of them more than the originals. It's just a different take, and it'll be up to fans of the show to decide for themselves what they think.
The Mr. Bungee of this production was played by the hilarious Dan Fogler (who stopped the show in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee). I'm sorry I didn't see him play this part, and I'm especially sorry that he wasn't available to make the cast recording. Instead, we are given Tony-winner Christian Borle, whom I was lucky enough to see in Something Rotten. He was a magnificent Shakespeare, but I feel that here he makes a rather dull Mr. Bungee. Still, this CD has a lot to recommend it, particularly for fans of the show.
- Original Release Date: February 5, 2016
- Release Date: February 5, 2016
- Label: PS Classics
- Copyright: ℗© 2016 PS Classics
- Total Length: 1:27:57
- ASIN: B01BBMXX5O
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#109,437 Paid in Albums (See Top 100 Paid in Albums)
- #4065 in Soundtracks (Albums)