Farcical comedy and heartbreaking drama are served in equal measure in the triumphant Broadway revival of William Finn’s unconventional, uncompromising and intimate family musical “Falsettos,” which is directed by James Lapine, who wrote the show’s book and also staged the original 1992 production.
“Falsettos” consists of two one-act musicals that premiered separately Off-Broadway: the freewheeling, fast-paced “March of the Falsettos” (1981), followed by the more sober-minded “Falsettoland” (1990), which contains some sad but beautiful moments that can make you cry.
“March of the Falsettos,” set in 1979, begins just after Marvin (Christian Borle), a gay, Jewish, neurotic, self-centered New Yorker, has left his wife Trina (Stephanie J. Block) and son Jason (Anthony Rosenthal) to live with his lover Whizzer (Andrew Rannells). Despite Marvin’s efforts to have it all and maintain both his family and love life, Whizzer leaves Marvin and Trina marries Marvin’s awkward psychiatrist Mendel (Brandon Uranowitz).
“Falsettoland,” set two years later, observes everyone stressing out over Jason’s upcoming Bar Mitzvah and Whizzer becoming an early victim of the AIDS crisis.
The world has changed considerably since “Falsettos” premiered, but the musical holds up as a poignant exploration of family breaking apart, growing up and coming together.
Lapine’s production is energetic, finely textured and extremely well-cast. Visually, it is built around a novel scenic design (by David Rockwell) in which a giant cube is pulled apart to reveal building blocks that suggest various settings.
Borle (who will star as Willy Wonka later this season in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) captures Marvin’s emotional journey from combative egotist to supportive father and lover. The cast scores vocally, comically and dramatically, bringing out the manic heights and tender pauses of this truly extraordinary musical.