As most arts-minded people know, the seminal Lapine/Finn musical Falsettos had its lauded Broadway revival broadcast on PBS last week. It was part of the station’s Live from Lincoln Center programming…although the production didn’t actually play at the Vivian Beaumont. It was indeed produced by Lincoln Center Theater, but found its home at the Walter Kerr…pre-Amelie.
I DVR’d the broadcast and watched it yesterday during a rainstorm…and, well, I just had a lot of thoughts about it. So many random thoughts, in fact, that I feel it best to present them to you in a bullet-point form. Here goes!
- Okay, so first off: I actually had no clue that the show was sung-through. And here I call myself a theatre aficionado!
- Falsettos is usually classified as a “gay story,” or even a “family drama,” but I believe there is another component: the characters’ Jewish identity. This show would read very differently if that element were absent.
- I enjoyed the 2nd act more than the 1st. Compared to the complications and themes of Act 2, Act 1 felt a bit like extended exposition. The 1st act is also more “theatrical” in its use of fantasy sequence and nonlinear events to tell the story.
- Speaking of which, it’s too bad that Tracie Thoms and Betsy Wolfe don’t show up until Act 2. I wanted to know more about them.
- I didn’t know too much about Stephanie J. Block, other than that she was one of Wicked‘s Elphabas, but this show made me a fan. She looked beautiful and has a really versatile voice. Her big solo, “I’m Breaking Down,” was clearly an audience favorite.
- Anthony Rosenthal, portraying her preteen son, is a star in the making. He was so easy to love, and considering the demands of this show, I’d already call him a consummate actor.
- “March of the Falsettos” was probably one of the creepiest production numbers I’ve seen in a while. I know it’s not really intended to come off that way.
- Brandon Uranowitz, as psychologist Mendel, completely stole the show. He was hilarious in his gestures and vocal inflections…and as a bonus, his chemistry with the kid was great. As a result, “Jason’s Therapy” and “Everyone Hates His Parents” were particularly entertaining moments.
- On the flip side, Marvin’s final song- “What Would I Do?”- was absolutely gut-wrenching, mainly due to Christian Borle’s facial expressiveness. That’s one of the great things about filmed theatre, you know? Closeups enable you to see things you might miss from a high-up venue seat.
- Weird opinion: I wasn’t in love with Whizzer’s character, though Andrew Rannells was an ideal choice for the part. However, his fate in the show still moved me to tears because of his loved ones’ reactions/how much he meant to them.
Falsettos takes place over two years…1979-1981. I think it is important to note this, as the piece manages to provide a “slice of the past” while still demonstrating how much and how little its issues have changed. That, in my opinion, is crucial for touching people with this art form.
However, the unusual structure and breakneck pace of the musical make me worry that some folks will miss the significance of those issues. And that, dear readers, is why I don’t know how to rate Falsettos.