Sammy Grob (Jason) and Tom Gamblin (Marvin) sing "Father to
By Jeanne Lieberman
residents Ryan Bell, Steven Alan Black, Tom Gamblin, Sammy Grob, and Nicole
Lafountaine along with Anna Ty Bergman and Cynthia Murray-Davis.
Directed by Joe
Barros, Music and lyrics by William Finn. Book by William Finn and James
Pines Arts Project finally chose a musical they did not have to alter to relate
to the predominantly gay community and a marked departure from their usual
musicals (i.e. last summers’ Guys & Guys, er…Dolls )
Finn’s Falsettos was ground breaking in its subject matter: With his
son’s Bar Mitzvah imminent, Marvin (Tom Gamblin) leaves his wife Trina (Nicole
LaFountaine) and son Jason (Sammy Grob) for his lover Whizzer (Ryan Bell). With
Jason rebelling against his upcoming Bar Mitzvah a shrink is recommended who
becomes Marvin’s psychiatrist (Steven Alan Black) and goes from being Marvin’s
doctor to Trina’s new husband(!). A neighborly lesbian couple Charlotte
(Cynthia Murray Davis) and Cordelia (Anna Ty Bergman) lend some levity to a
potentially heavy scenario. Whizzer gets AIDS, Jason decides to have his bar
mitzvah after all at his bedside before he dies.
it was produced in l992 it was in a very different context, the world of 1979 –
1981, even before the AIDS epidemic became recognized (and named)
Opening with “Four Jews in a Room Bitching,” one can
see why the play originally inspired such reactions as “Depraved, anti-Semitic…
aggressive homosexual indoctrination and the accompanying hostility toward religious
belief….celebrates sexual promiscuity, disease, and death”.
also a time when everyone saw a “shrink”. Add that the chosen one breaks
the rules, sees the family through a divorce and marries the wife of his patient.
Bar Mitzvah is imminent as his father, Marvin, selfishly sings “I want a
tight-knit family,” while trying to juggle lover, wife, son and shrink to
over view it a struggle to define masculinity and love during an age of
permissive sexual choices in a shifting society, a modern family divided in
sexuality but finally inseparable in love and death.
Finn’s eclectic almost sung through score ranges from show-biz razzmatazz
(“Love Is Blind”) to lullaby (“Father to Son”) to lush ballads (“Unlikely
Lovers”). Songs like “Everyone Hates His Parents”, “Something Bad is Happening”
and the heartbreaking final song “What Would I Do’ describe the arc of the
musical just as its time span goes from a relatively fun time to the horror of
cast, seen by the community in so many diverse roles, should be commended for
delivering this complex, no frills show with no distractions from their
performances which had to carry it all. Each is praiseworthy in his/her own
way. But one cannot ignore Sammy Grob, beloved grandson of the Pines’ equally
beloved Rita & Jack Lichtenstein, who has grown up before our eyes into the
charming, and talented young g performer that he now is. Sort of adds to the
family atmosphere the show tries to create.
Barroe’s idea t stage in the round seemed like a natural choice for a play with
little sets, credit Glen Wielgus for literally burying his talent underground with
a series of versatile pop ups constructed by Ryan Bell, L.I.C.(Whizzer? The guy
can do anything)
must be made of the band: Conductor/ piano Erik Martin, Synthesizer Jim
Colleran, Reeds Joshua Jonsson, and percussionist Mary Rodriguez who learned
this complex score in record time. How do they do it?
seated at a table of five gay men in their 50’s I was surprised how vividly
they remember and how much they still love the show, which they saw some 20
years ago.. Although some of the anguish of AIDS has for now been somewhat
controlled the joy and pain of these relationships still lives. There wasn't a
dry eye in the house at the play’s conclusion…including mine.
Notes from the Director Joe Barros
the show was never meant to look and feel conventional. I
wanted to challenge the way things have been done on the island and I also
wanted to examine the use of the space. It's such a beautiful space, and
I thought it would be powerful to use the room for such a daring musical.
I ultimately wanted to create an intimacy between the actors and the
audience as I believe FALSETTOS is an intimate show. I knew that audience
members would have to face an occasional back, but that was a part of this
journey and a part of the magic of what it is to stage a show in the round.
This cast worked so hard to create a unique experience for its audience.
And one of our greatest discoveries on our unique set was that limitation
I first discovered FALSETTOS when I was 17 years old. It
blew me away. I immediately connected with the material - my grandfather
contracted AIDS in the early 80's during a surgery in which he needed blood.
It was then passed to my grandmother and by the time they discovered what
was attacking their bodies, they were literally withering away from the virus.
I was barely 5 years old when this all happened but my family was well
educated about what was going on and so was I. The rich story within
FALSETTOS was relatable and I connected with the struggle that this family was
going through. I had lived through a very similar struggle. It was
all about acceptance. Accepting death - and ultimately accepting
FIPAP considered the show because it is a favorite of board member
Steven Alan Black - in addition to many Pines residents, including cast member
Nicole La Fountaine. La Fountaine and Black, long time performers of the
annual musical, have wanted FIPAP to consider the show for at least the past 7
years. They, and many members of the community, were so thrilled that
FALSETTOS was chosen. I had the great privilege of choreographing FIPAP's
GUYS AND DOLLS last season. During that time, Steven mentioned that he
may propose FALSETTOS to the board. I immediately told him that it was my
favorite show, I had directed it when I was 17 as a kid in San Francisco, and
that I would absolutely die to revisit the material! That production of
FALSETTOS made me discover that I wanted to produce, direct, and choreograph.
We did not piece together the two shows. FALSETTOS is
actually a trilogy. That trilogy is IN TROUSERS, MARCH OF THE FALSETTOS
and FALSETTOLAND. However, FALSETTOS is only performed as MARCH OF THE
FALSETTOS and FALSETTOLAND. IN TROUSERS played NY in 1978 (Playwrights
Horizons, and later a commercial musical off-Broadway in 1985), MARCH in 1979
(Playwrights Horizons), and FALSETTOLAND in 1990 (Playwrights Horizons, and
eventually a commercial production at the Lucille Lortel) the long awaited
sequel to MARCH OF THE FALSETTOS. In 1991, Hartford staged mounted a
production of the combined MARCH OF THE FALSETTOS and FALSETTOLAND which was
directed and choreographed by Graciela Daniele. This production was
rumored to transfer to Lincoln Center but it never did. In 1992, the
Weissler's produced FALSETTOS on Broadway - a combination of MARCH OF THE
FALSETTOS and FALSETTOLAND. This production won the 1992 Tony Awards for
Best Book of a Musical and Best Score of a Musical.
We taught the music over a week and a half period, but the actors
weren't called for the entire 2 weeks. And then rehearsed for 3 weeks
before we opened. We had to take the extra time to teach the music
because of the complexity of the score and fact that it is nearly sung through.
As complex as it was, we approached the show like a play, examining all
beats as scene work. The cast always worked as a sophisticated ensemble -
constantly working together to make discoveries and to refine the choices their
Steven Alan Black as Dr. Mendel
Bell as Whizzer
“Jewish boys who cannot play baseball, play baseball.”
Steven Alan Black (Mendel), Nicole LaFountaine (Trina), Tom
Gamblin (Marvin , Anna Ty Bergman (Cordelia), Charlotte (Cynthia Murray Davis)
Nicole LaFountaine (Trina) sings "I'm Breaking Down" (“Trina’s Song”
in which she indicts the “happy frightened silly men who rule the world” )
Tom Gamblin (Marvin), Ryan Bell (Whizzer), and Anna Ty Bergman
(Cordelia) sing "Days Like This"
Nicole LaFountaine (Trina) sings "Holding to the Ground"
as Ryan Bell (Whizzer) sleeps in the foreground
Bell & Sammy Grob
Bell as Whizzer
Tom Gamblin (Marvin) and Ryan Bell (Whizzer) sing "Unlikely