Absolutely & Unconditionally Fabulous
AIDS-themed Musical Falsettos Supports Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
by Sean Black
Hilariously quirky, toe-tap worthy and poignantly memorable is the highly acclaimed, Tony Award-winning musical Falsettos, a revival running on Broadway now through January 8, 2017. The refreshingly offbeat musical provides a glimpse into the lives and loves of a group of individuals who ultimately bend to their own definitions of family, culminating in acceptance, support, and unconditional love—the kind of “tight-knit” family that often came to the fore in the devastating early years of the AIDS crisis when those who were dying faced intolerance, stigma, and shame from not only society but also their “real” families. The early eighties were a time when the notion of family had never been more critical, a time when the pandemic had yet to claim 35 million lives, a time when many of those lives could have been saved if only prejudice did not weigh down politics. Even though the plot of the musical may have taken a different turn if written today, in the age of HIV treatments, the themes still resonate in a time when hate is trumping love.
Stephanie J. Block, who plays Trina, a forgiving, slightly neurotic and dutiful wife and mother, seeking to fulfill her own needs for a change, provides several outstanding moments including a relatable and laugh-out-loud emotional breakdown. All actors however lift some of the weightier topics with comedic skills and light-hearted lines. The stellar cast includes Block (Wicked), Christian Borle (Something Rotten!, Peter and the Starcatcher), Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon, Hamilton), Tracie Thoms (Rent), Brandon Uranowitz (An American in Paris) and Betsy Wolfe (Bullets Over Broadway).
With both heartwarming and heartbreaking moments, the emotionally charged play is the creation of William Finn, who wrote the music and lyrics, as well as the book with James Lapine, who was the original director of the earlier iteration some twenty-five years ago. Pulling from their Off-Broadway one-acts to bring The March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland to Broadway, Finn and Lapine take us into the lives of a gay playboy named Whizzer, Marvin, his lover seeking monogamy, Marvin’s wife Trina, their ten-year-old son Jason, and their extended family, all set during the eighties.
On the night of my attendance, headliner Andrew Rannells led the poster auction and request for door donations for leading HIV/AIDS services organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a vital nonprofit that draws upon the talents, resources, and generosity of the American theater community. Since 1988 Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has raised more than $250 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses in all fifty states.
For more information about Broadway Cares, log on to: www.broadwaycares.org.
Sean Black is a Senior Editor of A&U. Follow him on Twitter @seanblackphoto.