Ridge Recap: The Original Cast of FALSETTOS Talks Lapine, Finn, and How They Almost Didn't Make It to Broadway
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, 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. Part two, takes us through the show's first steps toward Broadway, the challenges in taking the brave new work out on tour, and the emotional heft of performing such a timely piece at the height of the AIDS crisis. Here are a few things we learned in the first park of our panel with the original Broadway cast of Falsettos.
Though the two worked marvelously well together, Chip Zien regards the two artists as creative polar opposites. Describing Lapine as having "laser focus" that could cut to the heart of any moment and Finn as "truly nutty", the cast recalls Finn frequently returning from his studio with new songs and Lapine promptly reviewing them and throwing them on the floor, never to be added to the show.
2) The original off-Broadway cast very nearly missed out on the Broadway transfer
Though March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, had been incredibly well-received off-Broadway the show's path to Broadway didn't really gain traction until a full-length production (with an entirely different cast) appeared at Hartford Stage. Director and choreographer, Graciela Daniele, had fused the two one-acts into a full-length musical but had staged the show on a thrust stage. When Barry and Fran Weissler expressed intentions to bring the production to New York, the director passed, having not the time nor want to re-stage the show for a proscenium. The Weisslers then approached Lapine for a full Broadway production, and much to the relief of the original cast, they were asked to open the show on Broadway at the Golden Theatre in the spring of 1992.
3) On winning hearts
Michael Rupert shared how the emotional impact of the piece became evident to him almost immediately. He recalls pinpointing at least one audience member at each performance "usually a guy, sitting there thinking, "What did my wife bring me to?" and then revisiting that same audience member during the second act and almost invariably finding the man in tears. The experiences of seeing hearts change in the span of an evening left Rupert thinking, "We really are doing something here."
4) Touring a brave new musical
Following her run with the show on Broadway, Carolee Carmello wound up joining the national tour in the role of Trinna. Though the show doesn't seem controversial by today's standards, the actress recalls a rocky reception in the more conservative parts of America. Carmello not only has memories of multiple audience members walking out on the piece throughout the tour, but one particular performance in Miami Beach where one outraged audience member exclaimed, "OY, AGAIN WITH THE BOYS!" during a scene with Marvin and Whizzer sharing a bed.
5) On working through the AIDS crisis
Falsettos began its run in April of 1992, during an era when the AIDS crisis was still extremely prevalent in the Broadway and gay communities. Chip Zien recalls grief stricken company members and friends comforting each other through the loss of friends and colleagues in the alley behind the Golden Theater. On a near daily basis, the cast greeted audience members afflicted with AIDS/HIV at the stage door, thanking them profusely for the work that they were doing. On opening night on Broadway, James Lapine addressed the company, and in his highly emotional speech, implored the cast and crew to do the show, "for those that we've lost."
See Richard's full interview with the original cast of Falsettos below!