Review: ‘Falsettos’ at Walter Kerr Theater

25 Years Later, Marvin and Whizzer Are Back and Bitching

By Jonathan Spira on 8 November 2016
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Unlike shows that need a moment (or an hour) to get going, “Falsettos” starts with a bang, or rather with “Four Jews in a Room Bitching.” Confused? Don’t be. Just sit back, relax, and take it all in.

The lively and heartbreaking show that first opened on Broadway in 1992 and stitched together two one-act musicals, “March of the Falsettos” and “Falsettoland,” which were produced individually in 1981 and 1990, from the beginning grabs the audience and never lets go, be it the joy of a bar mitzvah boy or the wrenching loss of one’s partner.

While it was fresh and relevant when I first saw it in 1992, I had to wonder if, some 25 years later, it would resemble a time capsule being unsealed. I needn’t have been concerned as the show, with its never-relenting score by William Finn and book by Mr. Finn and James Lapine (who also directs the revival), is as relevant today as ever.

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David Rockwell’s set may very well serve as a metaphor for how the characters are building and adjusting their lives, huge building blocks, set against a constantly shifting Manhattan skyline, which the actors use to create everything from a living room to a hospital room.

The story, set in 1979, centers around Marvin (Christian Borle) and his lover, Whizzer (Andrew Rannells), who along with Marvin’s ex-wife, Trina, (Stephanie J. Block) and their ten-year-old neurotic and precocious son, Jason (Anthony Rosenthal), form what was at the time an unconventional family unit.

Mr. Borle’s somewhat nebbishy Marvin, who repeatedly proclaims he wants “a tight-knit family,” outdoes even his Tony-winning performances in “Something Rotten” and “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Thwarted by his desire for a monogamous relationship with the eternally boyish Whizzer, he takes us on an emotional rollercoaster as the story unfolds. Clearly, their relationship is in trouble: they can’t even agree on basic facts (have we been together for nine months, or ten?).

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