Selladoor Productions present

FALSETTOS
Music and Lyrics by William Finn
Book by James Lapine and William Finn

 

The Other Palace

30 August – 23 November 2019

Reviewed by Clive Burton

 

Falsettos has been a long time coming to Britain, where it arrives in this pitch-perfect production at The Other Palace.

 

This much-lauded gay musical masterwork by James Lapine (book) and William Finn (music/lyrics) is an amalgam of three of their previous works - a leisurely 3 hours-plus unravelling of a story of a dysfunctional new York Jewish family coming to grips with the husband’s gayness, and accepting him (syphilis, hepatitis, new lover et al) as part of the family rebuilding itself with the ex-wife’s son and the family shrink at its centre.

 

A true bugger’s muddle, indeed. But the lightness of touch gracing every element of director/choreographer’s Tara Overfield-Wilkinson’s Falsettos makes for one of the most enjoyable shows in London, presenting a universally-appealing examination of aspects of love that had hitherto remained largely unexplored on the commercial stage.

 

That it escapes from the confines of its subject matter speaks volumes, with Finn/Lapine proving their versatility time and again from the opening comedy of ‘Four Jews in a Room Bitching’ to the wry humour of ‘The Baseball Game’ offsetting emotion with humour to illustrate the fascination of the human condition and its unpredictable foibles.

 

Trina’s mental anguish (‘I’m Breaking Down’) evolves into a show-stopper that draws parallels with similar outbursts in Follies and Gypsy - no mean feat to be compared with such a master of musical theatre as Sondheim.

 

Falsettos remains true to its original era (reflected in PJ McEvoy's witty set, costume and projection designs) and the small band (under MD Richard John) makes the most of Michael Starobin's vivaciously nervy orchestrations.

 

It all begins in 1979 when Daniel Boys’ idealistic romantic, Marvin, ditches his wife (Laura-Pitt-Pulford’s frazzled Trina) and their about-to-Bar Mitzvah son Jason (a formidable West End debut by an assured George Kennedy) to move in with Oliver Savile’s promiscuous lover, Whizzer.

 

The story fast-forwards to the AIDS crisis of 1981 with the original nuclear family (and Trina’s new husband, Joel Montague’s conflicted psychiatrist) forced to address the fallout from the effects of the ‘gay plague’ brought to their doorstep by Whizzer.

 

One of the many wonderful things about Falsettos, is how its originators constantly manage to throw light into its characters' behaviour and how punchily the music and lyrics propel this sung-though show to its conclusion.

 

Jason’s obsession with chess serves as a metaphor for the life-games we all play and Whizzer admits in ‘The Games I Play’ that his lifestyle is predicated on money and promiscuous sex: Marvin is all about love, which manifests itself in the touching ‘Father to Son’ duet that ends Act I.

 

Every situation is presented with a coruscating honesty that never dips into the maudlin - even at the very end where there is not a dry eye in the house as reality catches up with the fantasy of the lives everyone has been living in’ What Would I do?’

 

Lapine proves once again his ability to write characters of startling depth and freshness which his cast deliver to devastating effect, drawing together as a powerful ensemble united by the unbearable situation they are eventually forced to face together.

 

Falsettos proves a ‘must see’ that is a thousand times more entertaining than anything in a similar vein London currently has to offer - and you don’t need to be Jewish or gay to enjoy a show that deserves to become the one that ‘everyone's talking about.’

FALSETTOS – THE MUSICAL

The Other Palace

30 August – 23 November 2019

Press Night: Thursday 5 September

 

Performance Times:

Monday – Saturday 7:30pm

Thursday & Saturday 2:30pm

Ticket Prices: From £19.50

Box Office: 0207 087 7900

Falsettos website: 

www.falsettoslondon.com

The Other Palace
12 Palace Street
Westminster
London SW1E 5JA

www.theotherpalace.co.uk
Telephone: 0207 087 7900