BWW Review: FALSETTOS Touring Broadway Production a Must-See at the Ahmanson
The much-anticipated North American Tour of the Lincoln Center Theater Broadway production of FALSETTOS, now at the Ahmanson through May 19, marks a happy reunion for composer/lyricist William Finn and playwright/director James Lapine whose new one-act musical "March of the Falsettos" premiered in 1981. The story of a gay man named Marvin, his lover Whizzer, Marvin's wife Trina, son Jason and their psychiatrist Mendel, was a critical success both on and Off-Broadway. Fast forward to 1990, when a second new musical by Finn and Lapine, "Falsettoland" opened, providing a continuation of the story of Marvin and his extended family in the early days of the AIDS crisis. Rave reviews again abounded.
In 1992, the two one-act musicals were combined into one and opened on Broadway as FALSETTOS, which ran for over a year and won Tony Awards for Finn's score and Finn and Lapine's book.
Thankfully, the much-anticipated touring Broadway production has finally landed at the Ahmanson! "It is a great thrill to be bringing (our production) to theatre audiences across America and to be doing so with this exceptional cast of Broadway actors," said James Lapine, director of the artistically beautiful touring company production, with mind-blowing choreography by Spencer Liff, and an astoundingly transformational set designed by David Rockwell lit to perfection by Jeff Croiter.
FALSETTOS revolves around the life of a charming, intelligent, neurotic gay man named Marvin (Max von Essen) who decides to leave his wife Trina (Eden Espinosa, who raised the roof with her belting solos), to move in with his gay lover Whizzer (handsome Nick Adams), his about-to-be-Bar-Mitzvahed son Jason (Thatcher Jacobs sharing the role with Jonah Mussolino) whose upcoming celebration brings all the adults together in ways both expected as surprising, their psychiatrist Mendel (Nick Blaemire) who winds up falling in love with the heartbroken Trina, and the lesbians next door (Audrey Cardwell as Cordelia the enthusiastic caterer and Bryonha Marie Parham as Dr. Charlotte). It's a hilarious and achingly poignant look at the infinite possibilities that make up a modern family, how boys will always be boys, Moms usually know best, all the while providing a beautiful reminder that love can tell a million stories.
The energy required by this extraordinary talented cast rises above any adjectives I can think of to describe them. FALSETTOS is really an operetta, entirely sung-through while Liff's choreography keeps them moving almost non-atop while Lapine's direction requires constant changes being made to what first appears as a large, gray Rubik's cube and then transforms into every single set price needed to represent all the various locations in the show. Not to take away from the brilliance of the actors and magnificent, continuously playing musicians (conducted by P. Jason Yarcho), the scene changes alone are enough to guarantee sell-out shows throughout the tour!
While the first act is thoroughly entertaining with such comical numbers as "March of the Falsettos" during which all the men and Jason, wearing florescent track suits and shoes, celebrate their right to forever be boys, there is a sad undertone of a family breaking up as two new relationships are being formed while a young, confused boy is being pulled in both directions during "Everyone Tells Jason to See a Psychiatrist."
Levity is also added into Act 2 during "The Baseball Game" and "Everyone Hates His Parents," but also introduces us to the dawning of the AIDS epidemic before anything was known about its cause or how rapidly it would spread. In fact, as soon as the dedicated Dr. Charlotte confides that "Something Bad is Happening," Jason's belief in the "Miracle of Judaism" is severely challenged when Whizzer collapses while energetically playing on a racquetball court with Marvin and winds up in the hospital.
Will this lead to "Cancelling the Bar Mitzvah" or Jason's creating the most heart-warming (and tear-jerking) way to honor his entire family? Certainly the reminder that we cannot control all aspects of our lives and how important it is to live each day to the fullest comes into crystal clear focus by the end of this amazing theatrical presentation.
FALSETTOS continues through May 19, 2019, with tickets ranging from $30-$145, available by calling (213) 972-4400, online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org, or by visiting the Center Theatre Group Box Office at the Ahmanson Theatre, located at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, 90012.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus