Hindi Greenberg: ‘Falsettos’ is a must-see musical production by Sierra Stages
Special to Prospector
Some issues, joys and conflicts never become outdated — such as love, anger, family, jealousy, relationships and growing up.
Sierra Stages’ production of “Falsettos” addresses all of these in a tuneful and excellently performed musical that has humorous lyrics, meaningful commentary and an emotional finale.
“Falsettos” premiered on Broadway in 1992, winning two Tony Awards.
It was written by William Finn (lyrics and book) and James Lapine (book), two Jewish men who incorporated four Jewish characters into the play, along with some Jewish celebrations, language and food.
But you needn’t be Jewish to enjoy the goings-on, which open with the amusing song, “Four Jews in a Room Bitching.”
The interactions, personalities, humor and angst are universal — whether gay, straight, man, woman, kid or adult.
This play is actually a combination of two of Finn’s earlier shows, so the first act takes place in 1979 and the second in 1981.
In 1979, the audience is introduced to Marvin, who has divorced Trina to be with his boyfriend Whizzer, but who wants to maintain a close family relationship with Trina and their son Jason.
Incorporated in this group is Mendel, Marvin’s (and subsequently Trina’s and Jason’s) psychiatrist.
In 1981, the relational group is expanded to include Charlotte and Cordelia, a lesbian couple who live next door to Marvin.
The plot deals with varying relationships, trials, tribulations, loves, hates, life and death — with dialogue sung operetta style, hardly a spoken word uttered.
The casting is excellent, all actors more than holding their own, both in performance and vocally.
Jonathan Hansard as Marvin and Danny McCammon as Whizzer are dynamos, exhibiting excellent voices, great emotion and actual chemistry together. Nancy Haffey is both comical and extremely moving as the beleaguered Trina. Ken Miele is funny but sincere as the bedraggled psychiatrist Mendel. Graham Bennett admirably portrays the anxiety and upset of the almost 13 year old Jason, who has divorcing parents and a “homo” dad, as he refers to his father. And Kate Haight and Tinley Ireland as the next-door lesbians, Charlotte and Cordelia, are adorable and harmonize wonderfully.
The stage is small, with minimal but effective set design by Pamela Hodges and properties by Debby Henry.
Director Sandra Rockman masterfully keeps the action flowing but takes time to create significant tender moments. George Jayne’s dance direction and Casey Burke’s light design also assist the visual flow, generating movement in the small space. Jill Kelly’s costume design is evocative of the period, as are Nancy Haffey’s designs of wigs and hair. Adding enormously to the musicality was the excellent Teeny-Tiny Band, consisting of six musicians situated on the stage and conducted by keyboardist and musical director, Ken Getz.
Sierra Stages has another hit on its very full plate. This is a wonderful play, with meaningful things to say about many issues, presented in a musically interesting and well-sung and acted production. But do bring tissue for the second act, an outcome that I wasn’t expecting.
“Falsettos” continues at the Off Center Stage, 315 Richardson St.,Grass Valley through Nov. 22. For ticket information and show times, see http://www.SierraSTages.org or call 530-346-3210.
Hindi Greenberg likes when theater companies take on substantive plays which deal with real issues presented in compelling productions (although she likes funny and musical plays, also). Actually, she likes most theater and Nevada County fortunately has more than its share!
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