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Falsettos is a musical with a book by William Finn and James Lapine, and music and lyrics by Finn. The musical consists of March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, the last two installments in one trio of one-act Off-Broadway musicals (the first was In Trousers). The story involves Marvin, his ex-wife Trina, his psychiatrist Mendel, his son Jason, his lover Whizzer Brown, and his neighbors Cordelia and Dr. Charlotte. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1992 and was nominated for seven Tony Awards, of which it won Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. It was revived on Broadway in 2016, and the revival performance was nominated for five Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical.
In Trousers, created by William Finn, was produced twice in 1979 at Off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons, opening on February 21 and again on December 8. It was also produced Off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre in March 1981. Finally, in 1985, a pointedly reworked version with a more unified storyline opened on March 26 at the Off-Broadway Promenade Theatre, where it ran for 16 performances.
Collaborating with James Lapine, Finn created two additional one-acts, March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, exploring the lives of Marvin and his family and friends, which became the Marvin trilogy.
March of the Falsettos premiered Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on May 20, 1981 and closed on September 26, 1981. It moved to the Westside Theatre on October 13, 1981 and closed on January 31, 1982. It opened in Los Angeles at the Huntington Hartford Theater on April 21, 1982 and closed on July 2, 1982. Finally, it premiered at the intimate Library Theatre in Manchester, UK in 1987.
Falsettoland opened Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on June 28, 1990 and closed on August 12, 1990. The musical moved to the Lucille Lortel Theatre on September 25, 1990 and closed on January 27, 1991.
These two one acts were eventually put together for what is titled Falsettos, the two-act musical.
Original Broadway production
Falsettos opened on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre on April 29, 1992, and closed on June 27, 1993, after 487 performances and 23 previews. The musical was first presented Off-Broadway as two separate shows: March of the Falsettos (1981) and Falsettoland (1990).Directed by James Lapine, the cast included Michael Rupert as Marvin, Stephen Bogardus as Whizzer, Barbara Walsh as Trina, Chip Zien as Mendel (who played Marvin in the previous installment, In Trousers), Jonathan Kaplan as Jason, Heather MacRae as Charlotte, and Carolee Carmello as Cordelia. Rupert, Bogardus, and Zien reprised their roles from the original Off-Broadway productions of March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, MacRae reprised her role from Falsettoland, and Walsh reprised her role from the Hartford Stage regional production. Scenic design was by Douglas Stein, costume design by Ann Hould-Ward, and lighting design by Frances Aronson.
In 1994, Sydney Theatre Company presented an Australian production directed by Wayne Harrison and featuring John O'May as Marvin, Gina Riley as Trina, Tony Sheldon as Mendel, and Simon Burke as Whizzer. After playing at the Sydney Opera House's Drama Theatre from 12 January to 5 March 1994, the production toured Victoria, Hobart and Canberra.In 2014 Darlinghurst Theatre Company presented a revival directed by Stephen Colyer. The cast featured Tamlyn Henderson as Marvin, Katrina Retallick as Trina, Stephen Anderson as Mendel, Ben Hall as Whizzer, Elise McCann as Cordelia and Margi de Ferranti as Charlotte. The production played as part of the Sydney Mardi Gras festival throughout February and March of 2014.
2016 Broadway revival
On February 5, 2015, producer Jordan Roth announced that he would revive the show under the direction of James Lapine. It was then scheduled to open in the spring of 2016. On September 3, 2015, it was announced that the revival would take place in the 2016–2017 season.The production opened on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre on September 29, 2016, in previews and officially on October 27, directed by Lapine. Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells, Stephanie J. Block and Brandon Uranowitz play Marvin, Whizzer, Trina, and Mendel respectively. Other cast includes Tracie Thoms as Dr. Charlotte, Betsy Wolfe as Cordelia, and Anthony Rosenthal as Jason. The production closed on January 8, 2017. Two performances were filmed on January 3 and 4, 2017, to be repackaged into a presentation for the PBS television program Live from Lincoln Center series, which aired on October 27, 2017.
2019 National tour
A National tour of the 2016 Lincoln Center Theatre revival will launch in Winter of 2019. Direction is by James Lapine. Casting has not yet been announced. The tour will play in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas and other cities.
Act I: March of the Falsettos
It is 1979 in New York City, and Marvin, his son Jason, his psychiatrist Mendel, and his boyfriend Whizzer are in the midst of an argument ("Four Jews In A Room Bitching"). Marvin steps forward to explain his situation: He has left his wife Trina for Whizzer, but Marvin attempts to forge a new family situation with the addition of Whizzer, a situation no one is happy with. ("A Tight-Knit Family")
Trina, on Marvin's recommendation, pays a visit to Mendel where it becomes clear she is having trouble accepting the end of her marriage and her failure to be a perfect wife. Mendel, instantly attracted to her, tries to reassure her that she is not to blame ("Love is Blind"). Marvin and Whizzer comment on their relationship. They have very little in common but are intensely attracted to each other. Both worry that their feelings for one another are wearing off. ("The Thrill of First Love")
Whizzer presents an interlude: ("Marvin at the Psychiatrist, a Three-Part Mini-Opera"). In part one, Mendel asks Marvin about his relationship with Whizzer and Marvin discuss both his love for and his frustration with his partner. In part two, Mendel, obviously aroused by Marvin's ex-wife, brings up Trina, and winds up interrogating Marvin about her bedroom habits. In part three, Marvin and Jason provide counterpoint on the distance in their relationship.
Ten-year-old Jason is very worried that because of Marvin's sexuality, he will turn out to be gay too, and he has become moody and withdrawn ("'My Father's a Homo'"). Trina and Marvin decide the best way to deal with Jason's mood swings is to have him start therapy, and they both suggest for him to see Mendel. His parents are shocked when Jason demands advice from Whizzer before he will agree to see Mendel. ("Everyone tells Jason to see a Psychiatrist")
Marvin and Whizzer fight over Whizzer's lack of enthusaism for monogomy and Marvin's trying to pigeonhole him into the role of a homemaker. Meanwhile, Trina complains to Mendel how her role in the family is shrinking, as Whizzer becomes increasingly prominent in Marvin and Jason's lives, and everyone lashes out at Marvin. ("This Had Better Come To An End").
Despite her attempts to maintain a sense of normalcy, Trina is spiraling out of control ("I'm Breaking Down"). Jason continues to misbehave and Trina phones Mendel frantically for dinner and therapy ("Please Come To Our House"). Mendel arrives and immediately charms Trina. He and Jason settle down for therapy. Jason frets about his future and Mendel, in a very round-about way, encourages him to relax and enjoy life ("Jason's Therapy"). After several such dinners combined with psychiatric sessions, Jason asks Mendel what his intentions are towards Trina. Mendel clumsily proposes, and Trina accepts ("A Marriage Proposal"). Marvin is furious that he is losing his family as well as his therapist ("A Tight-Knit Family (Reprise)").
In ("Trina's Song"), she reflects on her situation. She is tired of the man's world she lives in, and even though she knows that Mendel is the same kind of man Marvin is, childish and neurotic, he loves her and she needs to feel wanted. In contrast, the four men sing a hymn to all varieties of masculinity, with the three adults singing in falsetto to match Jason's unbroken voice ("March of the Falsettos").
Marvin tries to teach Whizzer how to play chess, but bitterness and ill-feeling boil over ("The Chess Game"). They fight and break up. Meanwhile, Trina and Mendel move in together ("Making a Home"). As he packs, Whizzer reflects on his life and relationship with Marvin ("The Games I Play")
After receiving Mendel and Trina's marriage announcement, Marvin confronts Trina and incoherently accuses her of ruining their family, finally breaking down in rage and slapping her ("Marvin Hits Trina"). Shocked by his actions, everyone confesses that they never intended to feel so deeply about the people in their lives, and accept the pain that love can bring ("I Never Wanted To Love You").
Marvin is finished with Whizzer and his relationship with Trina is in tatters, but Marvin can still salvage his relationship with Jason, who has just discovered his love for girls to his immense relief. Marvin sits Jason down for a talk and tells him that he loves him, and no matter what kind of man Jason turns out to be, Marvin will always be there for him ("Father to Son") .
Act II: Falsettoland
Mendel shines a flashlight into the audience on a dark stage, welcoming us to "Falsettoland," the story's conclusion. It is 1981, two years later. Nancy Reagan is in the White House, and the cast has been enlarged by two: Marvin's lesbian neighbors Dr. Charlotte, an internist, and Cordelia, a shiksa caterer specializing in Jewish cuisine. Marvin observes that it's ("About Time") to grow up and get over himself. He has managed to maintain his relationship with Jason and now shares split custody with Trina, who has married Mendel. He has not seen Whizzer for two years and has not gotten over him.
One day, when she arrives at Marvin's home to take custody of Jason for the week, Trina informs Marvin that it is time to start planning Jason's Bar Mitzvah, probably the last pleasant thing the ex-couple will do together. The pair immediately start bickering to Jason's dismay and Mendel's amusement. Mendel encourages them to have a simple party and to relax about it, but Marvin and Trina (and Cordelia, the caterer) will have none of it, intent on throwing a party to be remembered ("The Year of the Child").
The scene moves to Jason's Little League Baseball game. While at bat, Jason has a lot more on his mind than the game - he is trying to decide which girls to invite to his bar mitzvah: the girls he should invite, or the girls he wants to invite ("The Miracle of Judaism"). Everyone is attending the game and watching Jewish boys play very badly and getting a little too involved, when Whizzer suddenly arrives; Jason had asked him to come, to Marvin's shock and Trina's unpleasant surprise. Whizzer gives Jason some well-needed batting advice and he and Marvin reflect on how much they miss being together. Marvin cautiously asks Whizzer on a date just as Jason manages to hit the ball. He is so shocked he forgets to run ("The Baseball Game,") .
An interlude: ("A Day in Falsettoland.") In Part One, "Dr. Mendel at Work," Mendel listens to the self-involved blather of a yuppie patient and agonizes about being a child of the sixties stuck in the eighties and how his work is taking a toll on his marriage. In Part Two, "Trina Works It Out," Trina works out to a jazzercise tape and tries to understand why Marvin and Whizzer getting back together is so upsetting. In Part Three, "The Neighbors Relax," Mendel and Trina discuss Marvin and the Bar Mitzvah while exercising and Charlotte comes home to Cordelia cooking "nouvelle bar mitzvah cuisine." Cordelia asks Charlotte how her day was at the hospital, and Charlotte exclaims that today was a rare day without a death. Meanwhile, Marvin and Whizzer play racquetball and bicker when Whizzer beats Marvin soundly. All reflect on how wonderful life is.
To say "the peace does not last long" would be an understatement. Soon after, the "truce" that's Marvin and Trina had quickly falls apart as they continue to fight about Jason's Bar Mitzvah. Marvin and Trina are warring over every aspect of the Bar Mitzvah ("The Fight"), which makes Jason want to call it off. Mendel consoles the boy, telling him that "everyone hates his parents" at his age, but everyone also matures and hates them less.("Everyone Hates his Parents")
Marvin sits in bed one morning, looking at the sleeping Whizzer. He wonders at how much he loves him ("What More Can I Say?"). Dr. Charlotte, meanwhile, is becoming aware that young gay men in the city arrive at the hospital sick with a mysterious illness that no one understands ("Something Bad is Happening"). Rumors are spreading, but the disease is spreading faster- then Whizzer collapses suddenly during a game of racquetball.
Whizzer is in the hospital, and Trina is disturbed to find how upset she is at his condition ("Holding to the Ground"). In Whizzer's hospital room, Everyone gathers to cheer him up, commenting on how well he looks. Marvin provides love, Cordelia chicken soup, and Mendel some terrible jokes. Everyone agrees that it is days like this that make these secular Jews believe in God. Only Jason, in childish honesty, is able to tell Whizzer the truth: that he looks awful ("Days Like This")
Mendel and Trina sit Jason down and give him the option of ("Canceling the Bar Mitzvah") if he feels he can not go through with it. Jason finally learns that Whizzer may not recover and storms off, bewildered and upset. Marvin sits in Whizzer's hospital room, soon joined by Cordelia and Dr. Charlotte, and the four ("Unlikely Lovers") reaffirm their commitment to each other despite the worsening situation.
As Whizzer's condition worsens, Jason turns to God, offering to get Bar Mitzvahed if Whizzer gets better ("Another Miracle of Judaism"). Dr. Charlotte explains to Marvin that "Something Bad is Happening," and heavily implies that Marvin may become sick as well. Whizzer's illness becomes terminal, and he resolves to face death with dignity and courage ("You Gotta Die Sometime").
Suddenly everyone bursts into the hospital room. Jason has had an epiphany: he wants to hold ("Jason's Bar Mitzvah") in Whizzer's hospital room. Trina could not be prouder. Everyone notices how much Jason looks like Marvin. Jason goes through with the Bar Mitzvah. As Jason completes his recitation, Whizzer collapses and is taken from the room, followed by all but Marvin.
Marvin, left alone, asks the departed Whizzer what his life would be if they had not loved each other. Whizzer appears, dressed as we first saw him, and the two sing together one last time. When Whizzer asks if Marvin regrets their relationship, Marvin doesn't hesitate to say that he'd do it all over again ("What Would I Do?").
As Whizzer fades from sight, Marvin's friends and family surround him, and he finally loses his composure and breaks down in their arms. As the lights begin to fade, Mendel steps forward one last time to face the audience, tearfully declaring that "this is where we take a stand." ("Falsettoland (Reprise)")
Replacements/Transfers (Original Broadway Cast)Marvin – Mandy Patinkin, Gregg Edelman and Adrian Zmed
Whizzer – Sean McDermott and Sal Viviano
Trina – Randy Graff
Mendel – Jason Graae
Jason – Sivan Cotel
Cordelia – Maureen MooreAlternates, Understudies, and Standbys (Original Broadway Cast)Andrew Harrison Leeds was the alternate Jason, performing at Wednesday and Saturday matinees.
Philip Hoffman was the understudy for Marvin and Mendel.
John Ruess was the understudy for Whizzer.
Jeffrey Landman was the replacement alternate Jason.
Susan Goodman was the standby for Trina.
Sal Viviano was the standby for Whizzer, eventually taking on the role as a replacement.Understudies (2016 Broadway Revival Cast)Tally Sessions (Marvin, Whizzer, Mendel)
Colin Hanlon (Marvin, Whizzer, Mendel)
Courtney Balan (Trina, Cordelia, Dr. Charlotte)
Stephanie Umoh (Trina, Cordelia, Dr. Charlotte)
Peyton Lusk (Jason)Recordings
The original cast recordings of the Off-Broadway The March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland were both released from DRG Records on January 1, 1991.The Broadway revival cast album was released on January 27, 2017. PBS will air a filmed performance of the revival as part of Live from Lincoln Center. For this recording, lines in "I'm Breaking Down," "The Chess Game," "The Baseball Game," "You Gotta Die Sometime," and "A Day in Falsettoland" were edited for profanity.
Awards and honors
Original Broadway production
2016 Broadway revival
Falsettos at the Internet Broadway Database