A family of self-described, "homosexuals, women with children and short insomniacs" forms in the most unlikely and beautiful of ways.
The national tour of "Falsettos" opened Wednesday night at Center Theatre Group's Ahmanson Theater. James Lepine brings the Lincoln Center 2016 Broadway revival back to the stage with a new cast.
Marvin (Max von Essen) leaves his wife, Trina (Eden Espinosa) and his son, Jason (Thatcher Jacobs) for his male friend, Whizzer (Nick Adams). In the wake of the divorce, Trina falls for Mendel (Nick Blaemire), a psychiatrist who treats her, her ex-husband and her son. They then traverse the challenges of their intertwined lives and the ties that hold them together.
"Falsettos" originally began as a one-act musical by William Finn entitled, "In Trousers." Finn then collaborated with James Lepine on two separate musicals, "March of the Falsettos" and "Falsettoland," following the same characters. Both musicals were later combined into the two-act musical, "Falsettos." The echoes of this initial separation, however, still linger. The second act is tonally much heavier than the first and breaks the established convention of blocks being the only main set pieces.
These individual characters are extremely specific, but sometimes not always the most likable. The unifying factor is the characters themselves and, over the course of the production, the audience feels significantly closer to this unusual family.
Jason is an adorable witty boy who never fails to tug at the heartstrings or spark laughter. He is often an unlikely voice and force of reason, and it is always comical to see such a small boy sound like the oldest person in the room while he is surrounded by adults. Mendel's goofy demeanor and physicality make him an incredibly likable jerk. Trina's "I'm Breaking Down" is show-stoppingly hilarious as she belts with a knife in hand and banana in her mouth. The tension between Whizzer and Marvin is palpable, but their lust seems to only turn to love in the second act. Both actors are vocally powerful, however, their emotional distance makes it hard to relate to them easily.
The "lesbians next door," a doctor (Bryonha Marie Parham) and caterer (Audrey Cardwell) are sweet and comical but only appear in the second act. Their presence is enjoyable and welcomed, however, could have used more meaningful integration into the musical as a whole.
The tone of the show overall sometimes feels a bit like a dizzying carnival ride, jumping between comedic moments and whimsical music one moment to the darkness of impending death and lost love the next. But audiences are fully along for the ride, watching this unconventional family grow closer. It can be chaotic and scattered at times, but ultimately captures the sentiment of one of the most notable lines of the production; "love can tell a million stories."
David Rockwell's set is minimalistic and extremely versatile, which almost acts as a character of its own. The actors build and break the set over the course of the production as they build and break bonds between each other. From the grandest of destructions to the smallest of placements, the set manages to tell a story all on its own.
"Falsettos" is an emotionally moving testament to love, between family members, friends, or lovers, and how unlikely, messy, and imperfect it may be.
"Falsettos" runs now through May 19th at the Ahmanson Theater. Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased here.