The Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) has been uncannily prescient with their superb production of the William Finn/James Lapine musical Falsettoland. It was rather eerie sitting in the audience, wearing a mask, watching a musical that takes place at the dawn of the AIDS crisis as the current COVID pandemic rages on.
The show is the third in the “Marvin” trilogy by composer Finn and librettist Lapine, coming after In Trousers and March of the Falsettos. The focus is on Marvin, who has left his wife, Trina, for his gay lover, Whizzer. Trina has, in turn, married her former psychiatrist, Mendel. Both live with Marvin and Trina’s son, Jason, who is preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. Rounding out the eclectic group are the lesbian couple – one a doctor, the other a would-be caterer – that live next door to Marvin. Even with all the nuttiness and suffering, everyone has remained on friendly terms and are important in each other’s lives.
There is a lot of Jewish angst surrounding the assorted relationships and the on and off again Bar Mitzvah. Complicating the whole megillah is the mysterious illness Whizzer is suffering from (interestingly, AIDS is never mentioned) that forms the climatic ending of the show.
The characters in the James Lapine and William Finn book are neurotic, apprehensive, and full of anxiety that could only be generated by living in New York City. The roles are well-drawn and complex, but the plot itself feels less full, more a series of intermingling vignettes. This becomes especially pronounced when compared to Falsettos, the later, more developed, wholly satisfying combination of March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland.
William Finn’s songs are spirited, at times nutty, and wonderfully capture the consternation, pangs of guilty, agitation, and poignancy within each character.
The seasoned seven-person ensemble is enthusiastic and energetic. Each of the performers are perfectly cast in their roles and, literally, bound into the audience. The magnificent seven are Dan Sklar as the self-centered Marvin, Corrine Broadbent as the long-suffering Trina, Jeff Gurner as the even-tempered Mendel, Max Meyers as the free-loving Whizzer, Jessie Janet Richards as the level-headed Dr. Charlotte, Elissa DeMaria as the hopeless chef Cordelia, and Ari Sklar as Jason, the seemingly only sane one in the group.
Director Kevin Connors has created a tight knit cadre of actors and actresses that work as a well-oiled machine, each part supporting the other. There is a good amount of schtick and slight, but vigorous choreography. Connors has done away with sets, which allows the audience to focus on the performers on the small MTC stage. He incorporates a lone hospital bed which as the show progresses, becomes the focal point of the action.
This glorious production of Falsettoland is outstanding and not to be missed. MTC also deserves praise for making the bold decision to present a sizeable cast in a musical not often seen in the state. Many Connecticut theaters have played it safe during the past few months, with small, intimate productions. Give the Music Theatre of Connecticut credit for this robust offering.
Falsettoland, playing at MTC through November 21.