BWW Review: Broadway Sacramento Welcomes FALSETTOS
William Finn and James Lapine's Tony-nominated revival of Falsettos has embarked on its national tour and will be in Sacramento through March 17. It originally premiered on Broadway in 1992 and won Tonys for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. This tour of the revival boasts a cast of accomplished actors, including Max von Essen (Tony nominee for his role as Henri Baurel in An American in Paris) as Marvin.
Marvin is a middle-aged dad who has realized that he is gay, but isn't quite ready to give up his ex-wife. Max von Essen brings Marvin to life as an uptight and controlling character who is both confused and enthralled with his new position in life. Helping him navigate this unexplored territory is his seductive and polyamorous lover, Whizzer, who is played by the uniquely talented Nick Adams. Playful with just the right amount of tenderness makes for a part that ultimately invites sympathy and love, which Whizzer will eventually realize he needs. Marvin's son, Jason (played by Thatcher Jacobs and Jonah Mussolino), is caught in between his parents and is questioning his own sexuality-will he be gay since his father is? Trying to hold it all together while dealing with her own insecurities is Marvin's ex-wife, Trina (Eden Espinosa), who gets by with the help of her new husband/Marvin's ex-therapist, Mendel (Nick Blaemire).
When Whizzer falls ill, the story drastically changes. Marvin, Trina, Mendel, and Jason come together to support each other in the unknown. According to Dr. Charlotte (Bryonha Marie Parham), "something bad is spreading." No one yet knows what it is, but it is affecting gay men and it is serious.
When the show debuted in 1992, America was still reeling from the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Gay men were dying in staggering numbers and no one would step in to help (The Nancy Reagan punching bag prop might be an indicator). Fresh outrage led to weeping relief as people saw their lives played out on stage and realized that someone was their voice. In 2019 it is hard to imagine because families now come in all shapes and sizes. Yet, we are still here. It is still timely. It still resonates.
There are many brilliant aspects of this show. David Rockwell's set, a veritable giant Jenga game, is simple yet so complex. Fascinating set changes are made by the actors as the giant pieces are made to be furniture, rooftops, headstones. Costumes by Jennifer Caprio invoke a nostalgia for days past. A cast that cares so much about the story that they are telling and having to use their talent to tell it only through song-there is no distraction of dance or dialogue to help.
That being said, the strength in this show lies in the individual musical numbers. From the hilarious "Four Jews in a Room Bitching," to Trina's relatable "I'm Breaking Down," to the uniquely bizarre and fascinating "March of the Falsettos," to the close of Act 1 with Marvin's poignant "Father to Son." A stronger Act 2 boasts my favorite, the hilarious "The Baseball Game," which leads to another stirring number of Marvin's, "What More Can I Say?" Whizzer's "You Gotta Die Sometime" and his number with Marvin, "What Would I Do?", close the show on a powerful note about the power of love and drive home the fact that yes, "love can tell a million stories."
Falsettos plays at the Community Center Theater through March 17. Tickets start at $31 and are available at the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office, 1419 H Street, Sacramento, or by calling (916) 557-1999; they are also available at the Community Center Theater Box Office, 1301 L Street, Sacramento, or by calling (916) 808-5181, or online at BroadwaySacramento.com.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus