Music and Lyrics: William Finn
Reviewer: Bryony Luther
Falsettos is a groundbreaking musical that explores what makes a modern family. It focuses on Marvin, a neurotic gay man who has left his wife and child to start a relationship with his partner Whizzer but wants everyone to get along as a family. The first act focuses on the domestic dramas and difficulties that the characters have with adjusting to their unorthodox family while the second act, which takes place a few years later, is darker and deals with the issue of AIDS. As the show covers a period of several years, you are able to go on a journey with these characters and experience how the relationships between them develop.
William Finn’s Falsettos is a pairing of two of his one-act musicals, March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, which both started life off-Broadway before becoming Falsettos and premiering on Broadway in 1992. It won Tony Awards for best original score and best book and it’s easy to see why when listening to this cast recording which is the first time this mostly sung-through show has been recorded in its entirety.
The score starts strong with the amusingly catchy Four Jews In A Room Bitching which will be stuck in your head for days and flows seamlessly through both the humorous songs and the emotionally raw ones such as the duet between Marvin and Whizzer, What Would I Do? The best songs are the ones which are effectively able to combine both the humour and the heartbreak such as I’m Breaking Down, sung wonderfully by Stephanie J Block with relatable lyrics such as “As enemies go Whizzer is not so bad, It’s just he’s so damn happy that it makes me so damn mad”.
The performances on this cast recording are stunning and the actors successfully differentiate their versions of the characters with those of the original cast. Christian Borle as the cynical Marvin is not afraid to make his character come across as selfish and immature while still being sympathetic. Andrew Rannells’ Whizzer immediately comes across as the shallow pretty boy lover who Marvin leaves his wife for and the relationship between him and Marvin is perfectly summed up in their duet The Thrill Of First Love. The stand out performance though is Anthony Rosenthal in his Broadway debut as Marvin’s unhappy son who steals the show from the adult performers. His performance is witty and honest as he struggles to adjust to his new family.
This cast recording shows that Falsettos can still be fresh, exciting and relevant even 25 years after it first premiered. It is great for both fans of the musical who can finally own a complete recording of the show and a great introduction to newcomers. While Falsettos has yet to premiere in London, this cast recording gives a true representation of this witty and touching show.
Album available from Ghostlight Records