Premiering in April 1992, Falsettos launched as a commentary on the past decade of gay relationships and the AIDS epidemic. Today, its universal message of love, acceptance and family values still ring true, with the tragedy of that time still making its impact on audiences in 2019. Bringing the political into the personal, we follow Marvin (Daniel Boys), who chooses to leave his wife and son for a man in 1979.
This sets the scene for the first act, which is launched with gusto by the company singing ‘Four Jews in a Room Bitching’, immediately highlighting the actors’ impeccable comic timing. Mendel the Psychiatrist, played by Joel Montague is especially funny, as he darts between therapy sessions with Marvin, troubled wife Trina (Laura Pitt-Pulford) and later, their 12 year old son, Jason (George Kennedy). For such a young actor, Kennedy owns the stage with ease, and handles the comedic style of the show with flair in his solo song ‘My Father’s a Homo’.
Meanwhile, Pitt-Pulford receives a raucous applause for her incredible performance in ‘I’m Breaking Down’ – not only are her vocals on point, but her comedic talent is unquestionable. She has a charismatic charm that confidently carries the comedic moments, but also showcases her vulnerability in ‘Trina’s Song’.
Marvin is a difficult character to get on board with at first, as he chooses to run off with eye-candy, Whizzer (Oliver Savile), but still wants his idyllic family life – all with minimum effort. Because of this, the first act drags at times, with too many moody ballads and complexes around Marvin’s decisions. Fundamentally, if the protagonist is a bit unlikable, it’s challenging to get on board with his story.
Nevertheless, the second act picks up the pace with more funny moments from the company. We fast-forward to the 80’s and are met with catchy number ‘The Baseball Game’, where Jason’s parents, step father Mendel, boyfriend Whizzer, and Marvin’s new friends – lesbian couple Charlotte (Gemma Knight-Jones) and Cordelia (Natasha J Barnes) watch Jason play baseball (poorly). This song successfully introduces the new family dynamic and Jason’s growing support network. It’s beautiful to see so many versions of love on this stage; Barnes and Knight-Jones’ relationship is notably tender and relatable – with stunning vocals to match.
Falsettos artfully draws this family community into the backdrop of the AIDs epidemic, with heart-breaking consequences. William Finn’s music and lyrics and the talented company handle the tone changes with care and attention, forming a heart-warming Bar Mitzvah scene at the penultimate moment.
At the time of the premiere in 1992, the themes explored in Falsettos were much more raw, and perhaps shock less today. Nevertheless, the timeless love stories prevail. This is a show about all kinds of love, meeting in one space – and isn’t that exactly what 2019 needs?