Ridge Recap: How the Original Tight Knit Family of FALSETTOS Almost Never Happened
When Falsettos first premiered on Broadway in 1992, the show gained instant status as a game changer. With William Finn's brave new style of musical theatre composition and in placing the lives of queer characters at the forefront of its storytelling, a tactic that had not yet been seen in musicals up until that point, the show has become a cultural landmark and a blueprint for the array of modern musical theatre that followed in its wake.
It has been over twenty years since the original Falsettos appeared on Broadway. With a brand new cast currently gearing up for the first Broadway revival of the show, BroadwayWorld correspondent, Richard Ridge has created a video series interviewing the show's original cast about their experiences, the show's legacy, and how Falsettos opened up the musical theatre landscape, proving that love really can tell a million stories.
In the first part of the series, Richard spoke with Michael Rupert,Stephen Borgardus, Carolee Carmello, Heather MacRae, Chip Zien and Jonathan Kaplan on their beginnings with the show and how the experience has altered their lives and careers. Throughout the course of the interview, we learned what the show has meant to the cast in the two decades since its original run, the continued emotional response to the work, and why more than one original cast member almost didn't do the show. Here are a few things we learned in the first park of our panel with the original Broadway cast of Falsettos.
1) Chip Zien almost missed out.
While waiting at JFK airport to board a flight to Los Angeles to pursue television, Chip received a message from his agent asking him to remain in New York to audition for a new musical called In Trousers. one of the shows that would eventually become Falsettos. After weighing his options, Chip made an on the spot decision to skip the flight and head back home to listen to a tape of the music. As any sane person would, he fell in love with the score and chose to remain in New York where he remained part of the project through its ground breaking Broadway run.
2) Heather McRae ALSO almost missed out:
At the time of the casting of the show, Heather was on the national tour of the Neil Simon play, "Rumors." When she received a call about Falsettos, she returned to New York briefly to audition for James Lapine, whom she had worked with on Merrily We Roll Along, and was awarded the role of Dr. Charlotte. Though her first instinct was to stick with the tour for financial reasons, Charlotte ultimately decided to embrace the artistic satisfaction over monetary security and took a gamble on the then uncertain future of Falsettos. Luckily, her decision was the right one and led her to what she describes as "one of the most amazing periods" of her life.
3) Falsettos set the bar high for Jonathan Kaplan
When Broadway's original Jason, Jonathan Kaplan, joined the show at the tender age of eleven, he did not realize that it would set a bar that he would continue striving to reach again for the rest of his career. His search for the family vibe he enjoyed during his run in the show continues to this very day.
4) Michael Rupert had his doubts.
Because William Finn's style of music was so unprecedented up until that point, Michael Rupert had his doubts throughout the development of the piece. In dealing with unusual tempos and a brand-new lyrical vocabulary, Rupert recalls meeting with James Lapine to ask if the show was actually any good. Lapine, also in the midst of navigating the new work, encouraged him to "just keep going", noting, "I think there's something here." Once the show finally came fully together on Broadway, Rupert's faith and continued work were hugely rewarded.
5) The legacy lives on.
Each cast member confirmed that they still meet with people on a regular basis who thank them for their work in the show and express what a life-changing experience seeing the show was for them. The cast also agrees that working on the groundbreaking show has been a highlight of their lives and careers.
See you next week as we explore Part 2 of Richard Ridge's panel with the original cast of Falsettos. Until then, check out Part 1 of the interview below.