William Alan Finn
(b. February 28 1952
, Boston, Massachusetts
) is an award-winning American composer
, especially of musicals
William Finn grew up in Natick, Massachusetts
with his parents and siblings, Michael and Nancy. He majored in music at Williams College
in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He lives with his life partner in New York City
and Pittsfield, MA, where he is an independent composer and writer. He is also "Adjunct Faculty Composer/Lyricist" at NYU
Finn is a heavily autobiographical
textwriter (he always writes his own lyrics); his topics are the gay
experiences in contemporary America, and very often conflict, loyalty, family, belonging, sickness, healing, and loss.
Finn is especially well noted for his work on what was to become a trilogy of short musical shows off Broadway. In Trousers,
March of the Falsettos, and Falsettoland all chronicle the lives of the character Marvin, his ex-wife Trina, his boyfriend, Whizzer, his psychiatrist, Mendel, and his son, Jason.
Falsettos, the combination of the latter two parts of his Marvin Trilogy (March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland), opened on Broadway at the John Golden Theater on April 29 1992, and ran for 486 performances. It won the 1992 Tony Awards for Best Music and Lyrics and for Best Book, the latter shared with James Lapine.
With Lapine, Finn penned a musical loosely based on his near-death experience following brain surgery, exploring the role of music in his life and recovery. The musical's main character is a man who has what may be terminal brain cancer. The show, A New Brain, starred Malcolm Gets, Kristin Chenoweth and Chip Zien, and premiered at Lincoln Center. The UK premiere was at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2005.
More recently, Finn scored another Broadway success with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, for which he wrote both music and lyrics. The show won two Tony Awards in 2005; one for Best Book of a Musical, and another for the Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical, and toured the United States in 2006. The show was first workshopped and produced at Barrington Stage Company (BSC) in Pittsfield, MA, where Finn later created The Musical Theatre Lab (MTL) with BSC Artistic Director Julianne Boyd. The MTL is an annual summer lab where emerging musical theatre artists are supported and new musical works are created, fine-tuned and produced under the curatorship of Finn and Boyd.
Three musical revues of Finn's music have been produced:
- Infinite Joy, in which the composer played the piano and sang along with an all-star cast, contained several songs from shows that were unfinished, and some that were cut from previous shows.
- Elegies: A Song Cycle is a series of songs the composer wrote in memoriam of loved ones now gone, and in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
- Make Me a Song, which was conceived and directed by Rob Ruggiero, premiered at Hartford's Theaterworks in the summer of 2006, opened off-Broadway in November 2007, and closed in December 2007 after 54 performances. A live recording of Make Me a Song was released by Sh-K-Boom Records on April 29, 2008.
His long-in-development show, The Royal Family of Broadway, with a book by Richard Greenberg, was based on the play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, which tells the story of a girl from a family of great Broadway actors who contemplates leaving show business and getting married. It has apparently been shelved, according to William Finn's personal notes for Make Me A Song and Playbill magazine. .
Finn's most frequent collaborators include librettist James Lapine, director Graciela Daniele and singers Stephen Bogardus, Carolee Carmello, Stephen DeRosa, Alison Fraser, Keith Byron Kirk, Norm Lewis, Michael Rupert, Mary Testa, and Chip Zien.
- In Trousers (1979, revised 1987) - Off Broadway musical - composer, lyricist
- March of the Falsettos (1981) - Off Broadway musical - composer, lyricist
- America Kicks Up Its Heels (1983) - Off Broadway musical - composer, lyricist
- Dangerous Games (1989) - Broadway musical - lyricist; music by Ástor Piazzolla
- Romance in Hard Times (1989) - Off Broadway musical - composer, lyricist
- Falsettoland (1990) - Off Broadway musical - composer, lyricist, co-writer with James Lapine
- Falsettos (1992) - Broadway musical - composer, lyricist, co-writer with James Lapine; includes March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland
- The Sisters Rosensweig (1993) - Broadway play - composer and lyricist for the song "Scarlet Pimpernel"
- A New Brain (1998) - Off Broadway musical - composer, lyricist, co-writer with James Lapine
- Love's Fire (1998) - playwright, composer and lyricist for the song "Painting"
- Elegies: A Song Cycle (2003) - Off Broadway revue - composer, lyricist
- The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (2004) - 2005 Off Broadway musical transferred to Broadway - composer, lyricist
- Make Me a Song (2007) - Off Broadway revue - composer, lyricist
- "Hitchhiking Across America"
- "Mister, Make Me a Song"