Review: FALSETTOS

FALSETTOS plays at The Other Palace, London until November 23rd. Details and Tickets here

IN BRIEF Love and loss in sung-through musical touches hearts and satisfies musically

FALSETTOS has been around since 1992 but is only now receiving its UK premiere. The show is an amalgamation of two earlier one act shows which originated in the 1980s. It still rather feels like a show of two very different halves, but together they produce more than their sum.

Set in New York, FALSETTOS centres around Marvin, a Jewish, ex-married man (with a son) who now lives with his male lover. Marvin is about as high-maintenance as a Boeing 787 Dreamliner (you’ll be relieved to know that the character improves).

The show charts the journey of Marvin and those around him -, his ex-wife, their son, their shared psychiatrist – as well as Marvin’s lover and the lesbian neighbours, through America in the dramatic decade of the 1980s, with HIV and AIDS the unseen agent which brings tragedy to the group. The first act is much more abrasive than the rather more chilled second, with specific character shifts including a more mellowed Marvin (and the welcome arrival of the neighbours) bringing new story opportunities and priorities..

A sung-through musical, written by William Finn and James Lapine, FALSETTOS’ frenetic, agitated score and hyper-smart lyrics successfully evoke that edgy New York state of mind that flows through the show’s veins. The music is played by a small but excellent band, crisp and perfect on every beat.

Daniel Boys as Marvin shows that he is fully on top of some tricky, vocally demanding numbers, giving us several real lump in the throat moments towards the end of the show. Oliver Savile as Marvin’s lover Whizzer provides memorable moments of vocal emotion, with an enjoyably strong voice. The always enjoyable Laura Pitt-Pulford as ex-wife Trina, is especially enjoyable in her “Mad” number, but as the only female voice in the first act we did feel her lack when she wasn’t around. It would have been good to have heard more of her. Superbly cast throughout, the whole company really achieve the potential of the score. My only thought was that the set design felt a little basic and bitty, although it seemed to serve the cast acceptably.

Some of the Jewish references may possibly fall flat for an UK audience, which simply reminds us that this is a very “New York” musical. But as they say, there is always more that unites us than divides us, and FALSETTOS still scores highly as a heartfelt call to finding strength to carry on in the face of loss and change.

FALSETTOS plays at The Other Palace, London until November 23rd. Details and Tickets here


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