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Boston by Suzanne Bixby

Falsettos

Falsettos
Jacob Brandt, Geoffrey Nauffts and
Linda Mugleston

Nicholas Martin, The Huntington Theatre's savvy Artistic Director, is to be congratulated for giving three young theatre artists who apprenticed under his auspices at the Williamstown Theatre Festival a number of years ago the opportunity to work together again on first-rate material in a classy venue.

Director Daniel Goldstein, music director Michael Friedman and set designer David Korins don't disappoint with their visually stunning, kinetic production of the Tony Award winning musical Falsettos. Boston's own William Finn wrote the music and lyrics and collaborated with his original director James Lapine on the book.

This is the 1992 Broadway version that combines two of Finn's three "Marvin musicals," March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, into a single evening. Playwrights Horizons premiered both, in 1981and 1990 respectively, along with the first of the series In Trousers in 1979. (A much revised In Trousers also had a commercial off-Broadway production in 1985.)

Despite annoying glitches with the sound and somewhat uneven performances, the material proves to be every bit as effective now as it was on first hearing 25 years ago. Finn - guided by Lapine - mastered the art of musical theatre storytelling with his energized sung-through score giving us the essence of character and action and saying what he needed to say.

Marvin just wants to be loved - by everybody. And that everybody includes his son Jason, his ex-wife Trina and his lover Whizzer not to mention his psychiatrist Mendel and the lesbians from next door. Marvin would like everyone to be "A Tight-Knit Family" despite having upset the Jewish middleclass applecart by leaving his wife for his gay lover and setting off more than the usual amount of adolescent hormonal angst in his young son.

The first half of the story takes place in 1979 when unconventional families (even on the Upper West Side) were still, well, unconventional. When we reconvene two years later for act two, Jason is starting to get his footing, but Marvin only realizes his heart's desire when "Something Bad is Happening."

The strongest performer is Linda Mugleston as the much-beleaguered wife and mother Trina. Best known at this point for having gone on for Donna Murphy more than 90 times in the recent revival of Wonderful Town, she wins us over here when she has a meltdown ("I'm Breaking Down") while making a banana pie.

Another standout is Jacob Brandt, the 13-year-old Newton native who charms us with Jason's "My Father's a Homo" and the "Miracle of Judaism" - which turns out to be getting to choose which girls to invite to your Bar Mitzvah.

Romain Frugé, whom I remember as a golden-voiced Floyd Collins in the 1999 tour, handles Whizzer's penultimate moment ("You Gotta Die Sometime") with panache. Too bad Geoffrey Nauffts as Marvin can't match him in the vocal department any better then he's supposed to on the racquetball court. His Marvin is too much the enigma to hold our interest and, unfortunately, he's saddled with "What Would I do?". That song, which closes the show, doesn't begin to measure up to the somewhat similar material Finn would later write for Elegies.

I also have a quarrel with Steve Routman's Mendel. Though appealing - especially when called upon to execute Seán Curran's delightful choreography - he's a little too nebbishy to pair with Mugleston's Trina. Anne L. Nathan and Kate Baldwin represent the rest of the distaff side well. They provide a welcome vocal addition to the second half, particularly when everyone's brought together to watch Jason at "The Baseball Game," one of the many, many highlights of this production.

Falsettos presented by The Huntington Theatre Company (Nicholas Martin, Artistic Director) at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue in Boston now through June 26. Evening performance times are Tuesdays - Thursdays at 7:30pm (excluding May 31); Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 7pm (June 5 and 12 ONLY) with matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm and Wednesdays at 2pm (June 15 and 22 ONLY).

Tickets range from $14 to $74 with a $5 discount for senior and students. A $14 student rush is available two hours before curtain. For tickets or information, call the Huntington Box Office at 617-266-0800 visit their website at www.huntingtontheatre.org or www.bostontheatrescene.com. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the B.U. Theatre Box Office on Huntington Avenue (across from Symphony Hall) or at the Calderwood Pavilion Box Office at the BCA on Tremont Street in the South End.


Photo: T. Charles Erickson


Be sure to check the current schedule for theatre in the Boston area.



- Suzanne Bixby



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