By Karen Isaacs
Falsettoland now at MTC in Norwalk through Sunday, Nov. 21 has seldom touched me emotionally as much as this production.
Director Kevin Connors and his cast brought a sense of honest emotion – not sentimentality to this piece about Marvin and his family and friends.
It is fitting to see this piece in Connecticut; after all in 1991 it was Mark Lamos, the artistic director at Hartford Stage who worked with composer/lyricist William Finn and co-book writer James Lapine to combine Finn’s two short musicals –In Trousers and March of the Falsettos into one more cohesive piece.
Falsettoland tells the story of Marvin who left his wife, Trina to move in with his boyfriend Whizzer. Now, several years later, Marvin and Whizzer have broken up though Whizzer still keeps in touch with Jason, Marvin and Trina’s 13-year-old son. Trina’s remarried to psychiatrist Mendel (who was Marvin’s shrink) and all are friendly with Dr. Charlotte and her partner Cordelia. It is time to plan Jason’s bar mitzvah. Simultaneously it is 1981 and as Dr. Charlotte says, “Something Bad Is Happening.”
This is a story about love, loyalty and family. For all of them have created a new type of family. When these were written, the idea of same-sex stable relationships as personified by Dr. Charlotte and Cordelia, and of ex-lovers remaining friends as Marvin and Whizzer do, was rare.
The musical not only shows how this new type of family works, but also how they come together to support Whizzer who is stricken with AIDS.
Finn and Lapine have created songs that touch nerves of everyone who has ever been in a family, from “The Fight” to “Everyone Hates His Parents,” to “What Would I Do?”
But it is Connors’ direction and the cast that make this so special. At the center are a real father and son duo: Dan Sklar as Marvin and his son Ari, as Jason. As Marvin, Sklar brings a combination of certainty and doubt to the role, plus a fine singing voice. His work with the last song in the show, brought tears to my eyes.
As Jason, Ari conveys a child’s confusion and annoyance at his parents, who are fighting over the Bar Mitzvah that he doesn’t know if he really wants.
Max Meyers has the difficult role of Whizzer; still somewhat a part of the family and yet totally over Marvin, who isn’t ready to let go.
Mendel, the psychiatrist who marries Trini, acts at times as the director of traffic as the pairings arrange and rearrange themselves. Jeff Gurner does a fine job with the role.
Corinne C. Broadbent is fine as Trina, combining irritation with her ex-husband and determination. She is no wishy-washy woman, but one who knows now what she wants.
As the lesbian couple, Jessie Janet Richards is warm and caring as Dr. Charlotte, while Cordelia (as played by Elissa DeMaria) borders on the ditzy. She was the one performer that I had the most difficulty hearing or understanding. At times, she was too soft and at other times, too fast. Luckily, she is most minor character in the show.
Special praise must go to choreography Chris McNiff. This show depends on choreographed movement more than dance, but McNiff has done excellent work. It is shown multiple times but particularly in the handball games that Marvin and Whizzer play.
The setting by Lindsay Fuori is abstract and rather bland, but the costumes by Diane Vanderkroef are true to the early ‘80s. Music director David John Madore and sound designer Will Atkin have worked together beautifully.
I encourage you to see Falsettoland. While the show may be set in 1981 both the issues it touches on and the feelings it elicits are very courant in 2021.
For tickets visit MusicTheatreOfCT.com