Borle, Anthony Rosenthal, Stephanie J. Block photos by Joan Marcus
you’ve heard that Theatre is the collaboration and fusion of hearts, minds,
talents, money, good intentions, love, hate, egos, wisdom, beauty, ugliness,
foolishness, brutality, compassion, hindsight, foresight and joy. Sorrow,
too. And once in a blue moon, everything works. Come to Falsettos. Everything
why shouldn’t it. The original pieces themselves, March of the Falsettos, Off-Broadway
back in 1979,and a couple of years later, the follow-up show, Falsettoland,
both laden with awards, then, in its new birth, both together to make up Falsettos,
cheered on Broadway twenty-four years ago, now richer, deeper, truer
today, somehow its characters, its craziness, its cockeyed whimsies grown to
three dimensions. It grew up. Yet at its heart, is a child.
year old, undersized, already a nerd, Jason, (phenomenally talented Anthony
Rosenthal) is the wunderkind apple of their eye, Trina (stunningly good
Stephanie J. Block) and Marvin (utterly praiseworthy Christian Borle), his
parents, have produced. They are so family a Family.
Borle, Andrew Rannells
that dad Marvin, has fallen in love with Whizzer (spot-on good Andrew Rannells).
He didn’t want to. He didn’t mean to. It just happened. And Marvin wants to
keep his family. But he wants to keep Whizzer, too. Shrink time.
J. Block, Brandon Uranowitz
Mendel (just the best Brandon Uranowitz) ends up having as his patients the
whole family. Which is not exactly kosher but necessary. Except that at his
advanced age – he’s forty-one – he falls like a ton of bricks for Trina. And
he’s unmarried, can you imagine, a nice Jewish boy and a doctor?
you surprised when Marvin and Trina divorce and Mendel marries Trina? I wasn’t.
It seemed, foreordained, you might say.
aside: the very opening number in the show spun out of marvelous William
Finn’s bizarrely rich mind is set 2000 years ago entitled “Four Jews in a Room
Bitching”. If this song and dance lunacy doesn’t set a tone, nothing will,
especially when the four bitchin’ Jews shed their wildly nutso beards and turn
out to be today’s Marvin, Mendel, Jason and Whizzer. It’s a perfectly directed
hoot. And though you’re in cosmopolitan contemporary land, you’ve just had its
roots planted. Marvelous.)
the marvels never cease. Much touted set designer David Rockwell has designed
his best ever acting set: a big puzzle cube which becomes everything everybody
needs, a table, a chair, a sofa, a bed, a doorway, a hidey hole, a bleacher,
you name it, it’s a giant child’s jungle gym and every adult in the audience
wants one. It works, wittily, quickly, easily, winningly, shaping the opera.
Because that’s what Falsettos is, a chamber opera, almost every word
sung, and splendidly sung, throughout its more than forty vignettes, the words
and music so attuned it’s as if they were true human communication. To pick out
a favorite song is oh, so challenging. At a favorite scene? There are so many
– maybe it’s that kooky “March of the Falsettos”. But there is no doubt at all
that when stupendous Stephanie Block conjures up Trina’s aria, ”I’m Breaking
Down” she is wildly cheered and applauded, a giant show stopper, the biggest
in town. Well, maybe it’s the baseball game, when everybody comes to see Jason
play. It’s such a heart tugger, warm, funny, touching, so many layers of meaning
and feeling. Oh, they are just wonderful.
become even more wonderful when, two years later, Marvin and Whizzer reunited,
after the inevitable falling out Whizzer collapses during a rough, competitive
game of squash with Marvin and Dr. Charlotte, (just aces Tracie Thoms) sings
“Something Bad is Happening”, presaging the onslaught of AIDS. The marvels
compound. Wonderful director James Lapine – he also worked on the book –
weaves and shuttles all the elements at his command into the warp and weft of
William Finn’s deeply human masterwork building on the strength of his superb
uses Spencer Liff’s inimitable choreography as part and parcel of the lives and
feelings of his people. Jeff Croiter’s sensitive lighting is part of his
older and wiser direction. Dan Moses Schreier gives him the best sound
engineering for his vitally important delivery to his audience. Vadim Feichtner
as musical director keeps ever fresh and buoyant William Finn’s iconic score.
There had to be a dozen magicians backstage to help with miraculous lightning
changes that work so smoothly for all those innumerable scenes.
unexpected bonus in all this theatrical witchcraft is the sheer humanity of all
the characters. Christian Borle is bursting with as much unexpressed feeling
and emotion as the feeling and emotion as he brings to the stage. His is a
performance to cherish as the core of the show. Playwright creator Finn gets as
good as he gives from this marvelous company. I adore Stephanie Block, forever
forward a fan, and love Betsy Wolfe as Cordelia, Dr. Charlotte’s lover, and her
endless trays of something good? to eat, love them all, Andrew Rannells,
Brandon Uranowitz, Tracie Thoms, Christian Borle, and especially Andrew
Rosenthal as bar mitzvah boy Jason. What a bar mitzvah. Heartbreaking.
Falsettos. At the Walter Kerr
Theatre. 219 West 48th Street. Tickets:$79-$204. 212-239-6200. 2
hrs, 40min. Thru Jan 8, 2017.
funny, achingly sad, witty, clever, beautiful, nuts, layers and layers of
feeling and meaning. Unmissable.