You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Broadway Review: ‘Falsettos’

Stephanie J. Block, Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells, Anthony Rosenthal, Tracie Thomas, Brandon Uranowitz, Betsy Wolfe.

William Finn and James Lapine were ahead of the curve when they wrote a trilogy of plays about a married man, his family, and his gay lover in the age of AIDS. “In Trousers” debuted in 1979, followed by “March of the Falsettos” (1981) and “Falsettoland” (1990). The latter two went on to play Broadway in 1992 under the umbrella title of “Falsettos” — and this surprisingly fresh revival has been directed by original director Lapine, who plainly understands the bittersweet humor and provisional joy of that period. March on.

The warm performances of a terrific cast soften the underlying sadness of Finn’s breakthrough musical about a nebbish named Marvin (an endearing performance from Christian Borle) who leaves his loving wife, Trina (Stephanie J. Block, dynamite), and young son (Anthony Rosenthal, blessedly unaffected) for a male lover with the improbable name of Whizzer (Andrew Rannells, irresistible to all sexes).

The story is largely told through the easygoing score, a fusion of tuneful melodies with insightful lyrics. The first song in the show, “Four Jews in a Room Bitching,” declares the comic intentions of this disarming musical. The songs go on to set the tender tone, disguising Marvin’s monstrous selfishness as a childish man’s delight in finding true love. In “A Tight Knit Family,” he even fancies himself the head of an extended family consisting of faithful wife, respectful son, and devoted male lover. Yet when he later learns that his wife is marrying the family psychiatrist (Brandon Uranowitz), he feels abandoned.

Popular on Variety

You have to wonder how a jerk like Marvin can move his wife to the state of mind expressed in “I’m Breaking Down,” a cri de coeur that touches all the other hearts in the house in Block’s sensitive reading of this plaintive song.  But keep in mind that this is the same Marvin who eventually redeems himself with the revealing “What More Can I Say?,” which may be Borle’s finest moment.

Borle’s neurotic hero is well matched with Rannells’ Whizzer, a character who must be loved by all the other characters if this show is to work. Rannells is so charming, he’d be loved by the family dog, if the family had a dog. Which makes everyone bring out the hankies in Act II, when Whizzer makes his brave farewell to all the people who loved him: “You Gotta Die Sometime,” the lyric goes. Sure, but does it have to be right now?

Broadway Review: 'Falsettos'

Walter Kerr Theater; 968 seats; $155 top. Opened Oct. 27, 2016. Reviewed Oct. 22. Running time: TWO HOURS, 40 MIN.

Production: A Lincoln Center Theater presentation of a musical in two acts with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by William Finn and James Lapine.

Creative: Directed by James Lapine. Choreography by Spencer Liff. Sets, David Rockwell; costumes, Jennifer Caprio; lighting, Jeff Croiter; sound, Dan Moses Schreier; music direction, Vadim Feichtner; orchestrations, Michael Starobin; production stage manager, Scott Taylor Rollison.

Cast: Stephanie J. Block, Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells, Anthony Rosenthal, Tracie Thomas, Brandon Uranowitz, Betsy Wolfe.

More Legit

  • Jagged Little Pill review

    Broadway Review: 'Jagged Little Pill'

    Nearly 25 years after “Jagged Little Pill” hit the shelves of record stores, Alanis Morissette’s innovative 1995 album has arrived on Broadway under the muscular direction of Diane Paulus, who launched this galvanic production at the American Repertory Theater. The show’s supportive book by screenwriter Diablo Cody interprets Morissette’s musical idiom as a universal domestic [...]

  • Claire Warden

    Listen: Let's Talk About Sex Onstage

    The craft of intimacy direction is taking Broadway by storm — and on the latest episode of Variety’s Stagecraft, Broadway’s first intimacy director explains why, and breaks down the ways in which she’s helping to revolutionize how actors get intimate onstage. Listen to this week’s podcast below: Warden, whose credits this season include “Jagged Little [...]

  • Dan Stevens

    Mark Addy, Dan Stevens Head Broadway Cast of 'Hangmen'

    Mark Addy and Dan Stevens will appear in the Broadway premiere of Martin McDonagh’s “Hangmen.” Addy, best known for his work on “Game of Thrones” and “The Full Monty,” starred in the off-Broadway production of the black comedy. It’s the first time Stevens, beloved for his turn on “Downton Abbey,” has appeared on the Great [...]

  • Dear Evan Hansen Jordan Fisher

    Jordan Fisher Joins 'Dear Evan Hansen' in Title Role on Broadway

    Jordan Fisher will be Broadway’s next Evan Hansen, joining the cast of “Dear Evan Hansen” in the musical’s title role. Fisher, best known to theater enthusiasts for his stint in “Hamilton” and playing Mark Cohen in Fox’s “Rent: Live,” will play the role for a limited 16-week engagement starting Jan. 28. “Evan Hansen is a [...]

  • SUBJECTS] seen at the Lincoln Center

    Lincoln Center's David Geffen Hall Set for Major Renovation

    Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall is set to undergo a major renovation that will lead to the facility being closed for months-long stretches starting in 2022. Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic announced Monday that the overhaul will require the temporary shuttering of Geffen Hall from May 2022 through October 2022 and again from [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content