Nov 25-Dec 11, 2016
Nora Q. Thomas directs a William Finn and James Lapine's musical "A New Brain" running November 25 through December 11, 2016. The performances will be at the Black Box Theatre located at 430 N Main Street in Las Cruces.
"A New Brain," inspired by William Finn's personal experiences, is a
medical drama seen through the iris of a Looney Tunes short. After struggling composer Gordon Michael Schwinn (David Marias) collapses face- first into his lunch, he is diagnosed with a brain tumor and is forced to come to terms with his creative ambitions and the lovable screw-ups in his life: an overbearing mother (Jacqueline Butler), a ruthless kiddie-show host (David Reyes), and a boyfriend who'd "rather be sailing" (JoshTaulbe). Rafael Medina, Xoe Choate, Carol Ayon, Joseluis Solorzano, Antonia Ringo and Vanessa Dabovich round out the cast accompanied by musicians Tommy Medina and Naomi Rupp. The musical originally opened at Lincoln Center Theater on June 18, 1998, winning the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical.
Showtimes are: Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sundays December 4 and December 11 at 2:30 pm and Thursday December 8 at 7:00 pm. Tickets are available by calling (575) 523-1223
Decision a no-brainer: Go see 'New' musical
- By MIKE COOK, Las Cruces Bulletin
An arteriovenous malformation (AMV) happens when blood vessels get tangled up in the brain. It can result in brain damage or death. In the one case that we know of, it has also resulted in a very entertaining musical that continues for two more weekends at the Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main St. in downtown Las Cruces.
American composer and lyricist William Finn suffered the AMV in his brain stem in 1992. The resulting surgery left him feeling like he had "a new brain," Finn said.
Six years later, he had a new musical by the same name. Producer Ceil Herman and director Nora Q. Thomas brought it to the Las Cruces stage.
"A New Brain" is unusual because the whole show is sung - there are almost no spoken words in the entire production. That's a big challenge for performers, but this cast was up to it, in solos, duets and group numbers.
David Arias, a newcomer to Las Cruces theater, was a very solid Gordon Michael Schwinn, the character representing Finn. Doing most of your singing from a hospital bed, as Arias did, could not be easy, but he was more than equal to the task. I look forward to seeing Arias in future productions at Black Box and elsewhere in Las Cruces.
Carol Ayon, who has been in a couple of recent Black Box musicals, was terrific as Schwinn's agent and best friend, Rhoda. I especially enjoyed her "Whenever I Dream" duet with Arias.
Ayon was part of strong supporting cast that included New Mexico State University theater arts major Xodia Choate in dual roles as a very perky and charming waitress and then nurse Nancy D, joined other cast members on a number of songs and took center stage on "MRI." Vanessa Dabovich gave a strong performance as the homeless woman, Lisa, who rocked in her solo performance of "Change." It's Vanessa's fifth show at Black Box.
I always enjoy the work that Joshua Taulbee does, and he was particularly sweet as Roger Delli-Bovi, Schwinn's long-time boyfriend. His performance of "Sailing," was, for me, one of the highlights of the evening.
Likewise Rafael Medina, who is always powerful and magnetic on stage. In "A New Brain," his Dr. Jafar Berensteiner was equal parts odd-ball surgeon and muscular eye and ear candy on duets and multi-part harmonies like "Trouble in His Brain" and " Craniotomy."
Like Arias, Jacqueline de'Butler and Antonio Ringo are also new to the Las Cruces stage. As Schwinn's mother, Mimi, and Richard, the night nurse, respectively, they were delightful - de'Butler especially in "Throw It Out" and Ringo in "Eating Myself Up Alive."
David Reyes, who has been in a lot of plays and musicals in Las Cruces, was a perfect Mr. Bungee, the cartoon frog Schwinn was trying to write a song for when he suffered the AMV. Joseluis Solorzano, whom I had the pleasure of working with in "The Explorers Club" earlier this year at the Black Box, rounded out the cast as the minister, adding both musically and theatrically to songs like "Heart and Music" and "Yes."
My favorite song in the show was the last one - "I Feel So Much Spring" - as Schwinn brought the whole production full circle.
Bravo to you all.
The band performing live during the show is comprised of Diane Thomas (also the production's musical director) on piano, Naomi Nakano Rupp on keyboard and Tomas Medina on drums. Peter Herman is the show's light designer. The stage manager is McKensi Karnes. Jeff Thomas is the sound engineer. Bekah Riley is the soundboard operator.
"A New Brain" opened at Lincoln Center Theater in New York City in 1998, winning the Outer Critics Circle Award for outstanding Off-Broadway musical. Authors Finn and James Lapine won Tony awards for best book of a musical and best original score for another of their musicals, "Falsetto." Remaining performancesof "A New Brain" are Fridays and Saturdays, 2, 3, 9 and 10 at 8 p.m.; Sundays, Dec. 4 and 11 at 2:30 p.m. and Thursday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $15 regular admission and $12 for students and seniors over age 65. Tickets for the Thursday night show only are $10.
For reservations, call 575-523-1223. Visit www. no-strings.org.
No seating plan has been posted.