Falsettos Returns to Broadway
It sure sounds like a story made for New Yorkers. Falsettos (taking place between 1979 and 1981), with music and lyrics by William Finn, and book by William Finn and James Lapine, and directed by James Lapine,
is about a neurotic Jewish man who makes a dramatic life decision that affects all around him.
We meet Marvin, who has a wife and a son, but leaves them for the young and handsome Whizzer, and asks that all get along. His wife, Trina, is somewhat compliant but feels bulldozed, and his young son, Jason, just wants peace. Jason is at the bar mitzvah phase of his life, and there is lots of angst surrounding his coming of age event for him and his family .
That is the story behind this revival of the 1992 Tony Award winning musical, featuring a stellar cast that sings the dialogue, (the musical is all in song) dense with lyrics that expose the intricate plot.
David Rockwell is the set designer, and created a structure of interlocking modular pieces that
come apart to be used as needed, almost as if the cast members are physically un-packing the elements of the narrative.
The cast is exemplary, with the always fabulous Christian Borle starring as Marvin, Andrew Rannells as Whizzer, Stephanie J. Block as Trina, Marvin’s long suffering wife, Brandon Uranowitz as Mendel, the family’s therapist, who falls in love and marries Trina, and young Anthony Rosenthal, making his Broadway debut as Jason.
The night I saw Falsettos, it was just one night following the election. Stephanie J. Block has a very evocative song to sing, aptly named Trina’s Song, and the lyrics were especially poignant given the outcome of the voting. Ms. Block was clearly affected by the song, as were so many audience members. That number and her performance is worth the price of admission.
Here are just some of the lyrics to Trina’s Song:
I’m tired of all the happy men who rule the world
They grow – of that I’m sure
They grow – but don’t mature
I’d like the chance to hide in that world
As these men who aren’t quite men yet, but aren’t boys
Make noise, and throw their knives;
Their toys are people’s lives
They fight too hard
And play too rough
They sometimes love, but not enough
My heart will beat at will, but still…
I love the themes of Falsettos, and the sharp and probing lyrics. In the second act, tragedy strikes when young, charming Whizzer comes down with a strange ailment that a doctor, who is a friend of Whizzer and Marvin’s recognizes. She is noticing something strange among gay men in her practice. We, of course, know what that strange illness is. Doctor Charlotte, played by Tracie Thoms and her caterer girlfriend, Cordelia, Betsy Wolfe, help their friends and the family to deal with this sad occurrence.
What I found a bit tiresome was the length of the show and think that a good 15 minutes could be lost. The silly March of the Falsettos number can be removed, for example. I must admit, I am unsure what that is all about, but damn if I can’t get that song out of my brain.
All cast members are awesome. I am a huge Christian Borle fan and enjoy every moment he is on stage, Stephanie J Block truly owns her turf in this play, and Brandon Uranowitz as Mendel is sexy, funny and smart.
The tag line for Falsettos is “Love can tell a million stories” and boy, is that ever the truth.
Great cast, important themes, Falsettos is worth seeing.