Falsettos at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts
For the most part, I genuinely enjoy a large majority of the shows I see. However once in a blue moon I’ll see a show that I connect with on so many levels that I can’t stop talking about to everyone I know. Well look up in the sky because that blue moon is here because I was smitten after seeing the current touring production of the Lincoln Center Theater Production of Falsettos. It was really everything I kind of want in a musical. There are moments of laughter, scenes of sorrow and jaw dropping talent every single second.
Falsettos is the story of a dysfunctional Jewish family in New York. The plot starts almost immediately with a bit of conflict when it’s shown that Marvin was previously in a marriage with Trina. While they may be divorced they are still connected as they share a young son named Jason. Marvin is also openly gay and now is in a relationship with a man by the name of Whizzer. The family becomes even more unorthodox when the family psychiatrist, Mendel, becomes more involved with Trina and eventually marries them. Oh and did I mention that Marvin is also best friends with two lesbians who live next door? While their lives all seem like a rollercoaster, the cart finally becomes to plummet as the AIDS crisis creeps and infects its way directly into the lives of these characters.
While recently on Broadway, the show was a smashing success and starred actors like Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells, Stephanie J. Block and Brandon Uranowitz. All four were even nominated for Tony Awards in 2017 and the production itself was nominated for Best Revival of a Musical. It also reintroduced this groundbreaking musical to a new generation of theatre fans, including myself.
The set by David Rockwell and direction by James Lapine, who also co-wrote the book, was truly a work of art. The set design is simple but really intricate with a series of jigsaw styled building blocks. The show started with a simple cube in the center of the stage. It morphed throughout the production as actors took pieces that later would resemble various furniture pieces. I also saw the blocks as a metaphor for part of the ending of the show. No matter how hard life gets, it’s never easy and sometimes you need to work together to build up relationships with your friends, family and sometimes even ex-lovers to get through it.
The whole time I also couldn’t help but wonder how hard it must have been to block this and then continuously know which block the actors needed next. After a few songs, all of the blocks looked the same to me so bravo to the cast for making it look easy.
This cast should be the gold standard of what an ensemble should be. They are like a well oiled machine and also each manage to stand out in their own and unique ways. Max von Essen, who played Marvin, is a real and flawed character which makes him so much more believable. Every fight, makeup and love scene with Whizzer felt so realistic. His voice also matched so beautifully with Nick Adams who played Whizzer. Adams himself was a force on stage with dance like movement along with a killer belt. At times his voice could be fun and so full of energy while other times being able to emote pain and emotion in such a tender way. Jason is played by Thatcher Jacobs and for being so young, he had such a strong voice.
For me this show was a particular treat to see due to the incredible Eden Espinosa being cast as Trina. I’ve been a big fan of Espinosa’s since I was in high school seeing her in countless of youtube video compilation videos from Wicked. You know, those videos that play 15 different actresses singing the magical moment in Defying Gravity? Don’t lie. You’ve watched them.
Espinosa was one of the strongest performances for me. Her ability to hit every consonant and syllable in every lyric sung is masterful. The song “I’m Breaking Down” early on in the show solidified her as a command presence in every single scene she was in after. I wanted to give a mid-show standing ovation after singing, flawlessly I might add, the last few measures with half a banana in her mouth!
Despite taking place in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Falsettos still remains to be just as relevant as it was when it opened on Broadway in 1992. I’ve never felt so passionate about trying to persuade readers to attend a show than this one. While dealing with themes of dysfunctional families and same-sex love, these characters really grow on you in such a short amount of time. They are your neighbors, your teachers, your friends and maybe even your own family. They are relatable in many ways and that’s what makes this show so beautiful to watch.
Falsettos runs at the Ordway now through Feb. 24th.
Below is a link to Goldstar that has discounted tickets available as well as an interview that I did with Eden Espinosa and Max von Essen with Twin Cities Gay Scene.