What's coming up next for Jen BB? Check it out...
There's so much going on in all of our lives, all of the time. If something that's coming up on my schedule works in yours, and you're able to attend, I'd love to say hello! Feel free to email me from this site, or contact me on FB...most of the theatres that I work in have comfy lobbies, or pubs to meet in after.
As soon as we are all able to meet together again at a Theater, PLEASE let me know that you are coming to hang out - I will hug you with ALL of the strength that I have!
This is a show to be EXPERIENCED.
"A New Brain," a quirky, problematic show that's been more phantom than real, has been deftly staged at Artistry. The skilled players back a well-blended cast that includes consummate pro Jen Burleigh-Bentz of Broadway’s “Mamma Mia!,” expert singer Bradley Greenwald and operatic baritone Rodolfo Nieto." - STAR TRIBUNE
TALKIN' BROADWAY SAYS: 'Gordon's mother Mimi is played with grit and love in equal measure in a great performance by Jen Burleigh-Bentz. Her refusal to be tearful over Gordon's prospects of recovery is fierce, channeled via her smoky voice into faux sunniness and furiously cleaning his apartment ("Mother's Gonna Make Things Fine," "In the Middle of the Room," "Throw It Out,"), until she caves in with a poignant appraisal of how she will endure the loss in "The Music Still Goes On," a showstopper.
The Pioneer Press Says:
"Jen Burleigh-Bentz makes his anxious, agitated mother full-voiced and fascinating, culminating in a torch song, “The Music Still Plays On,” with the urgent, damaged air of late-model Judy Garland."
In 1992, shortly after William Finn received two Tony Awards for Falsettos (for Best Score and, with James Lapine, for Best Book a Musical), he had a stroke-like episode and was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, in his brain stem. Brain surgery followed, a near-death experience that left Finn in a coma with his survival in doubt. Fortunately, survive he did. He spent a year going through rehabilitation and reevaluating his life, prompting him to write songs that were the genesis of A New Brain. Recruiting Lapine to collaborate on the book, the musical went through several workshops before officially premiering in an Off-Broadway production at Lincoln Center in May 1998.
The show was not a commercial success. Perhaps the public was not ready for a musical about brain surgery, but I tell you, A New Brain is about far more than the incident that led Finn to create it. In his album notes for the original cast CD, Andre Bishop, who was then artistic director of Lincoln Center Theater, wrote "A New Brain is [Finn's] response: not to the threat of death but to the joy of living." This is a wildly affirmative show. I defy anyone to sit through it without feeling grateful for the gift of life.
Finn invented a songwriter named Gordon Schwinn to serve as his alter ego. Gordon writes simple songs for a children's TV show hosted by Mr. Bungee, a man dressed as a frog for his pre-school audience and a terror to work for. Gordon's struggles between his desire to write high quality songs and eventually to compose the entire score for a Broadway show, and the insipid material that provides his paycheck. His greatest fear in facing the prospect of his own death is to have failed to unleash all the creative work locked up within himself.
Gordon also has a devoted boyfriend, Roger, and a deeply loving but overbearing mother, Mimi. A New Brain covers the unshakable love between a mother and her child, and the ability of a romantic relationship to endure the strain of an existential crisis. Gordon's best friend, the pragmatic Rhoda, is also on hand, along with a couple of nurses (Richard, the "nice nurse" and Nancy, the "thin nurse"), a doctor, a minister, and a homeless woman named Lisa, whose efforts to merely survive don't preclude her from extending kindness to a stranger—and provide Gordon with a vivid lesson about what really matters in his life.
That is the entire show, and though it is more than enough, it is a fairly intimate work, one that might have become lost on the Schneider's ample stage. Director McGovern stages the musical in a manner that draws the outer edges of the stage toward the center with emotional centrifugal force, with Gordon as its center of gravity, even when other characters are given the limelight. Each scene glides easily into the next, with no gaps in the story's command, for an hour and forty-minutes without intermission.