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Review: FALSETTOS, The Other Palace

FalsettosIn many ways, when William Finn and James Lapine's musical Falsettos premiered on Broadway in the early 90s it was ahead of its time. The show centres around what is still often described as an "unconventional" or "modern" family.

FalsettosFalsettos opens with the sensationally titled number "Four Jews In A Room Bitching". We meet Marvin and his psychiatrist Mendel and are soon brought up to speed: Marvin is gay and has left his wife, Trina, for his new boyfriend, Whizzer. He and Trina have a ten-year-old son Jason and they're attempting adapt to their new family set-up.

Despite the original Broadway production winning Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Original Score, the musical never received a London production... until now!

Falsettos is a beast of a show. It's mostly sung-through, with complex melodies and detailed harmonies. Finn's score is both hilarious and emotive - this is a character-driven piece with great heart.

Directed and choreographed by Tara Overfield-Wilkinson, Falsettos is very much a show of two halves. The first act is busy - intentionally chaotic at times. On first impression, PJ McEvoy's design appears simple, but objects are often being moved around the stage by the hardworking cast to create a variety of set-ups. There were some clunky transitions, but I'm sure these will be smoothed over as the run continues.

The pace is fast, lyrics are thrown at the audience and it's hard to keep up, but it fits in well with the style of these larger-than-life characters - with Daniel Boys, Oliver Savile, Laura Pitt-Pulford and Joel Montague leading a stellar ensemble cast.

The show is taken up a notch in the second act with the arrival of the superb Natasha J Barnes and Gemma Knight-Jones, who play the family's lesbian neighbours. Their characters lift the piece - it's perhaps a shame we don't meet them earlier on. Falsettos was created under the spectre of the AIDS crisis, and the second act becomes far more delicate; I found myself hanging off every lyric. Upon reflection, it's a very smart show and I'm keen to revisit the score so I can take in more of the detail, as on first impression it's overwhelming.

Joel Montague, who starred in the recent West End production of Funny Girl, is in his element as Mendel. Despite having been brought into the show midway through previews after Matt Cardle withdrew from the production, Montague is at home on stage, showcasing tremendous talent throughout.

Laura Pitt-Pulford, who recently starred in another of Finn and Lapine's musicals - Little Miss Sunshine - is perfectly cast as Trina. Her rendition of "I'm Breaking Down" provides one of the show's many highlights with her effortless comedic timing shining through. One of my favourite relationships in the show is between Trina and her gay husband Marvin; Pitt-Pulford and Daniel Boys explore their complicated dynamic throughout.

It is a treat to see former Wicked star, Oliver Savile, take on an entirely different role. His performance of Whizzer is intricate; he charms during the first act, but during the second his performance is utterly heartbreaking. Savile proves himself as someone we should all have our eye on.

Jason is a demanding role, but Albert Atack - one of four young actors to share the role - proves a versatile and charming young actor. This is a tough role for someone so young, but Atack makes it look effortless. Throughout the show, we see Jason faced with the question of whether or not he wants a bar mitzvah, paving the way for one of the evening's most touching scenes.

I found myself wiping away tears during the final moments of the evening and came away feeling incredibly moved by Finn and Lapine's musical. The second act contains moments of theatrical magic. Falsettos' UK premiere seems long overdue - it's a special show, and I think it's remarkable that, 17 years on from its premiere, it remains a relevant exploration of humanity.

Falsettos runs at The Other Palace until 23 November

Read our cast interviews here!

Photo Credit: The Standout Company

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