Magazine article Gramophone

Finn: Falsettos

Magazine article Gramophone

Finn: Falsettos

Article excerpt

Finn Falsettos 2016 Broadway Cast Ghostlight (M) (2) 84509 (133' * DDD)

The two parts of William Finn and James Lapine's brilliant urban opera Falsettos first came together in 1992 when the horrendous human cost of the Aids epidemic was still incalculable. But March of the Falsettos (1981) and Falsettoland (1990) were each born in the thick of this terrible scourge and each independently served as a shared experience for those who were living or had lived through it. I remember sitting in a Broadway theatre back in 1992 and the emotional involvement of that audience--most of whom will have suffered loss directly or indirectly--was palpable.

Falsettos is now iconic, and undoubtedly William Finn's masterpiece, something he is unlikely to surpass--but what is really startling listening now to this revival from 2016 is how fresh and prescient the piece still sounds, how the jokes still land and the heartache is still raw. The tone--certainly that of Act 1, March of the Falsettos--is edgy and satirical. Let's face it, any show which kicks off with the nervy counterpoint of a number entitled 'Four Jews in a room bitching' isn't about to pull its punches.

There's a lot in this creative pot: the four Jews: Marvin, married to Trina with a son Jason on the brink of his bar mitzvah; Whizzer, Marvin's gay lover; and Mendel, Marvin's psychiatrist who is now having an affair with Trina, Marvin's wife. OK? Oh, and let's not forget the lesbians from next door. And as if these permutations and their ramifications weren't complicated enough, the Aids epidemic--'Something bad is happening'--arrives in Act 2.

This is, in the broadest sense, an intimate epic in which the frictions and agitations of Act 1--delivered as they are at the speed of light in a sequence of sung-through scenes-cum-songs as scabrously funny as they are insidiously catchy--find repose and reflection in the heartbreak of Act 2. …

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