Wednesday, 25 September 2019

 

Falsettos at The Other Palace


It's 1979 and Marvin (Daniel Boys) is trying really hard to make his unconventional family work. With his boyfriend Whizzer (Oliver Savile), his ex-wife Trina (Laura Pitt-Pulford), their 10-year-old son Jason (Albert Atack on press night), and his psychiatrist Mendel (Joel Montague), who's now dating Trina, in the mix this is not an easy feat – as catchy opening tune Four Jews in a Room Bitching makes all too clear.

Marvin may want everyone to happily get along with each other as if he didn't just leave his wife for another man, but for those around him it's a much tougher pill to swallow. Trina is upset about the failure of her marriage, Whizzer is unsure about the sudden seriousness of his relationship with Marvin, and Jason is worried that because his father is gay that he is too. Needless to say, Marvin's idealistic view of the picture-perfect family is far from the messy reality.

The William Finn (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and James Lapine (Into the Woods) musical was originally two one-act plays, written 10 years apart; March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland. Because of this, while the story is a chronological continuation of the lives of Marvin, Whizzer, et all, it does very much feels like a show of two halves. The first part upbeat, despite tackling subject matters such as sexuality and divorce, and the second half far more serious and heart-wrenching.

The unanimously stellar cast walk that fine line between comedy and drama beautifully; from the youngest member of the company, Albert Atack, stealing the show from the moment he performed the energetic My Father's a Homo through to his hilarious take on Jason's psychiatry journey, right down to the gentleness between Marvin and Whizzer during Unlikely Lovers towards the very end.

The latter also has a cameo by the delightful 'lesbians from next door', the woefully underused Natasha J. Barnes and Gemma Knight-Jones. Perhaps it's a testimony to Marvin's self-centered view that they don't even have character names. However, by giving them more more to work with than a bit part in act two, they could've balanced out the otherwise testosterone-heavy show somewhat.

Despite the under-appreciation for the lesbians from next door, Falsettos is a story of representation, highlighting universal themes of love, acceptance, and family. The clever, though somewhat cartoonish, set design makes it a bit more theatrical, but it doesn't take away from the relatable journey along the way; from the self-deprecation charm of the farcical situation the characters find themselves in at the start of the show, right until the moment they find their reluctant place amidst each other.



Falsettos is playing at The Other Palace until 23 November 2019. Book your tickets here.


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