I'm Breaking Down: The Top Ten Songs by William Finn

By Ben Rimalower
16 Nov 2013

3. "Change" (from A New Brain)

The character of Lisa, the homeless woman, in A New Brain offers Finn and book-writer James Lapine a theatrical device. The idea is that homeless people are filter-less and can say crazy things. Then, the device pays off when that allows them to say the crazy things we're all thinking. The change Lisa sings about initially is "pennies or nickels or dimes," but ultimately she asks for change as in societal evolution. If the message sounds clichéd, what makes it work is that there's no platitude, she just wants what we all want. In fact, she actually admits sotto vocce, "I don't ask for hugs, just need money to buy more drugs." It's not a sermon; it's a complaint, and it's hilarious.