When Falsettos first opened off Broadway in 1990, it was ground-breaking, innovative and risk-taking. Now, nearly three decades later, Falsettos, while not timeless, shows that themes of love and family continue to have relevance today. The LGBT themes in Falsettos were controversial when the musical first debuted. Now, the raucous engagement with the crowd in Dallas would suggest that we can take a giggle at these once taboo subjects.
Falsettos shares the tale of Marvin, an anxious Jewish man (now there is the true stereotype) who leaves his wife Trina for his lover Whizzer. Marvin wants to keep his family, though, so he continues to bring Trina, son Jason and Whizzer together. While tolerant, Trina has frustration, and begins seeing – and then dating – Marvin’s psychologist, Mendel. The first act moves quickly through this narrative with clever dialogue and catchy vignettes. In fact, Trina’s ‘breakout’ moment in the show, and perhaps the high point in the whole musical, is her emotional diatribe in ‘I’m Breaking Down.’ I’d promise that every woman in the theatre both laughed and nodded along with every note.
The second act is actually a separate one-act play, called Falsettoland. Much of the light-hearted energy of the show evaporates, as Falsettos explores themes of loneliness, isolation, and eventually the onset of AIDS in America. The heart-wrenching close of the second act left nary a dry eye in the building.
Falsettos had a very short, five-day run at Dallas’ Winspear, and will continue on to Minnesota, several California cities and Chicago before going to the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The continued effort of organizers of the Broadway Series in Dallas to bring in innovative theatre is evident in this and other selections, and a good omen for theatre-lovers in North Texas.