BWW Reviews: How Showtunes' FALSETTOS Made Me a Weepy Mess
I should really start off by apologizing, dear readers, as I'm about to share with you a production that you cannot see. Alas it only showed for one weekend but for those like myself who were fortunate enough to catch Showtunes' latest production, "Falsettos" then you realize that, even though it was simply a concert version, it is now the production to which all future productions of the show must be compared.
If you're unfamiliar with this amazing show from William Finn and James Lapine, then you need to rush right out and get ahold of the cast album. No seriously, I'm not sure what you're waiting for. OK, I'll tell you but you have to promise to get it after we're done. It's actually a combination of two one-act shows, "March of the Falsettos" and "Falsettoland". In "March of the Falsettos" we meet Marvin (Joshua Carter) who has a lovely wife Trina (Anna Lauris Boynton) and a devoted son Jason (Jonny Ozburn). A perfect Jewish American family in 1979. But Marvin has found himself falling in love with Whizzer (Jadd Davis) and chooses to leave his ideal suburban life for his new life as a gay man. But Marvin wants it all and so with the help of his therapist Mendel (David Silverman) he attempts to combine both of his lives into one glorious one. But when Trina falls for Mendel and life with Whizzer isn't all he expects, then his perfect life may be just a dream. Then Act two or "Falsettoland" deals with the lives of these people two years down the road as the struggling family attempts to put together Jason's bar mitzvah all the while in the world a new disease, AIDS, is beginning to spread out of control.
For me this is one of the most beautiful shows out there. I've been in love with it ever since I heard the cast album (the one you should have ordered by now). And as wonderful as the original recording is, director Victor Pappas and music director Mark Rabe have taken the show and with only 24 hours of rehearsal presented a stunningly powerful production that in some ways surpasses the original. For those familiar with the show you'll understand that when I found myself tearing up at the end of Act One I realized that if I was like this then, what a complete mess I was going to be at the end of Act Two. And I was!
The cast is direct from the theater Gods. Silverman is hilariously likable as the love struck Mendel. Ozburn turns in some incredible moments as the confused and too smart for his own good Jason. And Frances Leah King and Katherine Strohmaier as the lesbians from next-door Charlotte and Cordelia only manage to add to the glory of the show as they are introduced in Act Two.
But it's Carter, Davis, and Boynton who make this show the incredible journey that it is. Boynton manages humor, heart and truth in what can be a very stereotypical character. And her rendition of "I'm Breaking Down" (which is actually from the precursor of the two shows "In Trousers" but has since been added to The Combined show) practically brought the house down and is a performance for the ages. Davis not only has one of the most crisp, powerful and soul shattering voices around but also kept the comedy and heartbreak of Whizzer alive. And Carter with his velvet smooth tones and oh so expressive face never once lost focus in the show, the story or the character. Even when he wasn't on, sitting behind others standing at their music stands, he was still ever present in the moments and only added to the emotion of the scene.
In New York, the Encores series does a similar thing to Showtunes by sparsely putting up not often done musicals for short periods. But occasionally if those shows are popular enough, a longer and fully staged production can spring from them. Here's hoping Showtunes can take a page from that book and give this production a larger staging soon. It deserves it. And as I have said, the original cast album (the one you've ordered, right?) is one of my favorites. But after seeing this production I only wish that I could have the recording of this to replace it.
Unfortunately, Showtunes' production of "Falsettos" is over but you can still look forward to their next production of "Singing in the Rain" performing at Benaroya Hall May 11th and 12th. For tickets or information contact the Benaroya Hall box office at 206-215-4747 or visit them online at www.seattlesymphony.org or www.showtunestheatre.org.