It’s the late 1970s in New York City. Marvin, who is Jewish, longs for a tight-knit family, a prospect made difficult by the fact that he has left his wife, Trina, and son, Jason, and taken up with a new boyfriend, Whizzer. With the help of his psychiatrist Mendel, and his lesbian neighbors, Marvin finds a way to secure and enlarge his family, even as a new and deadly disease threatens the very fabric of it.
This is the premise of “Falsettos,” a 1992 Broadway musical from James Lapine and William Finn. The show was first presented off-Broadway as two one-act pieces, “March of the Falsettos” (1981) and “Falsettoland” (1990). The first act is set in 1979, the second in 1981. The original Broadway production was highly acclaimed and was nominated for a bunch of Tony Awards, winning two.
A 2016 revival, starring Tony-winner Christian Borle (“Something Rotten,” “Peter and the Starcatcher”) as Marvin, Stephanie J. Block (“The Mystery of Edwin Drood”) as Trina, and Andrew Rannells (“The Book of Mormon”) as Whizzer, also was nominated for a bunch of Tonys. The New York Times critic Charles Isherwood liked the revival so much he declared, “There’s hardly a moment in the exhilarating, devastating revival of the musical ‘Falsettos’ that doesn’t approach, or even achieve, perfection.”
This nearly perfect musical about a decidedly imperfect family opens at Coeur d’Alene’s Lake City Playhouse this weekend and is being staged in the region for this first time since 1996, when Troy Nickerson directed the show at Spokane Civic Theatre’s Firth Chew Studio Theatre.
Although it’s a show she’s seen in various capacities, director Kasey Davis is tackling “Falsettos” for the first time, with an assist from her husband, co-director Jadd Davis. “It’s just a beautiful show,” she said. “And even though it’s set in a very specific time period, there are so many elements of it that are basically timeless. And the music is fun.”
The themes contained within the show are universal, and despite subject matter that some might be sensitive to – Davis says it’s certainly a PG-13 production – she says if patrons come with an open mind and an open heart, they will find much to enjoy in this story of family and love.
Helping her tell this story is a cast of local talent. Playing Marvin is Brandon Michael, who was Emile DeBecque in “South Pacific” with Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre last season, and Le Danciaro in Opera Coeur d’Alene’s production of “Carmen” with the Spokane Symphony. Duncan Menzies, Tony in Civic’s recent production of “West Side Story,” is Whizzer.
“Brandon is a dream as Marvin,” Davis said. “I think he could play this role anywhere now. He sounds amazing.”
She added Menzies and Michael “sound really great together. Their chemistry is really awesome.”
Alyssa Hersey, who is part of the Coeur d’Alene Murder Mystery Theatre troupe, is playing Trina. Davis said heading into auditions, she really didn’t know who would be playing the role. Hersey came in and took the part, she said. “It’s nice when you’re casting a show and someone helps you make your decision,” she added.
Rounding out the cast are Aidan Headley as Jason, Kyle Ross as Mendel, Callie McKinney Cabe as Charlotte and Amy D’Orazi as Cordelia.
Television viewers may have seen the 2016 revival last fall when KSPS aired a filmed production of it as part of the “Live From Lincoln Center” series. For those coming to the show cold, Davis said it’s simply “a show about people in love and relationships.
“It’s about this family unit that feels like it’s falling apart and splintering, but it finds its way back just in time for them all to go through this hard death and this disease that in 1981 didn’t even have a name yet,” she said, adding. “More than than, it is a comedy. … And it’s very funny. The music is so quick and witty.”
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