Saturday, October 15, 2016

Falsettos ** C+

When Lincoln Center Theater announced that it was reviving William Finn’s Tony-awarded musical (best book and best score), I wasn’t sure I wanted to see it again. After seeing its two halves off-Broadway when they were presented as “March of the Falsettos” in 1981 and “Falsettoland” in 1990, as well as the Broadway version of 1992, I thought perhaps it would be better to keep my fond memories and skip it this time around. Michael Rupert, Stephen Bogardus and Chip Zien were so ingrained in my memory as Marvin, Whizzer and Mendel that I could not imagine anyone else in these roles. When Christian Borle and Andrew Rannells were announced as Marvin and Whizzer, I was even more uncertain. While Borle is extremely talented, he is not my vision of a gay neurotic Jewish New Yorker; nor is Rannells my idea of a hunk. I was disappointed that James Lapine was once again directing, because I thought a new director might give it an interesting new spin. Curiosity got the better of me and I bought a ticket. As the play opens, Marvin has divorced his wife Trina and moved in with his lover Whizzer. Marvin and Trina’s young son Jason (an excellent Anthony Rosenthal) is acting out. Marvin’s shrink Mendel takes a fancy to Trina. As luck would have it, both Stephanie J. Block and Brandon Uranowitz were out the night I attended so I saw their understudies Courtney Balan and Tally Sessions as Trina and Mendel; fortunately they were both very good. After intermission we meet the lesbians who live next door, Dr. Charlotte (Tracie Thoms) and Cordelia (Betsy Wolfe). During the first act, I was fighting the disparity between the concept of the two male leads in my head and the versions embodied by Borle and Rannells. They eventually won me over. After intermission, the book becomes more involving and even the songs get better. While the plot may be manipulative, I defy anyone to keep a dry eye at the end. Jennifer Caprio’s costumes are fine. David Rockwell’s set is a puzzler. While I liked the Manhattan skyline backdrop that had several permutations, I thought that the large grey cube that dominated the set and was disassembled as needed to form various props looked cheap. For those who haven’t seen the show before, I would definitely recommend it as a time capsule of New York life in 1979 and 1981. Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes including intermission.

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