William Finn (* 28 February 1952), Tony-winning American composer, especially of musicals.
William Alan Finn was born in Boston and grew up in Natick, Massachusetts with his father, his mother Barbara and siblings Michael and Nancy. He majored in music at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He lives with his partner Arthur in New York City as an independent composer and writer and now serves as an "Adjunct Faculty Composer/Lyricist" at NYU.
Finn is a heavily autobiographical textwriter (he always writes his own lyrics); his topics are the gay and Jewish experience in contemporary America, and very often conflict, loyalty, family, belonging, sickness, and loss. In spite of this, Finn's lyrics are usually hilarious, especially in his use of language games that are reminiscent of Edward Albee.
Finn is 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 psychologist Mendel, and his son Jason. In Trousers shows Marvin confronting his homosexuality, and leaving Trinna for Whizzer. March of the Falsettos has Mendel fall in love with Trina, as Marvin grows closer to his estranged son. Falsettoland tells the story of Jason preparing for his Bar Mitzvah, as Whizzer succumbs to the then unknown disease AIDS, and Marvin grows to accept himself. The latter two shows were directed by James Lapine, and starred Chip Zien (originally in the role of Marvin, but later as Mendel), and Michael Rupert.
With Lapine, William Finn would pen a musical loosely based on his near-death experience after brain surgery, and the role of music in his life. The musical's main character a man who has what may be a terminal brain tumor. The show, called 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.
Finn's greatest commercial success so far has been Falsettos, the combination of the latter two parts of his Falsettos Trilogy, which 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. More recently, Finn was acclaimed for the success of 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.
Two musical revues of his music have been produced in the last decade. 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.
He is currently working on the music and lyrics for a new show, The Royal Family of Broadway. The book is being written by Richard Greenberg. At the moment Jerry Zaks is slated to direct the piece. The Royal Family of Broadway is 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.
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.
Works denoted with a double asterisk (**) were produced on Broadway.
Other songs include "Mister, Make Me a Song", "Republicans" and "Hitchhiking Across America".
Bill Finn is famous among his Cycle 15 Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Students at NYU for a time when he was offered nachos in the lobby -- after careful consideration, he said (in his growling voice), "Give me TWO CHIPS." He ate the chips, and after further consideration, growled out an extended expletive, and demanded "Somebody give me a DIET SODA."