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L to R: Joseph Stone, Andréa Black, Adam Moscoe, Jerusha Lewis, Julie Seguin. Photo: Maria Vartanova.

Theatre Review: Falsettos at The Gladstone—until 09.07.19

By Samara Caplan and Laura Gauthier on September 5, 2019



Laura and Samara spend their days as non-profit unicorns and fill every spare minute exploring the world of musical theatre as BFFs (that’s Broadway Friends Forever).

Love can tell a million stories. This fall Orpheus Musical Theatre launches its 2019/2020 season with Falsettos at The Gladstone Theatre. Falsettos, with music and lyrics by William Finn, opened on Broadway in 1992, winning Tony awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. It was revived in 2016 with some well known Broadway names including Christian Borle (Something Rotten), Andrew Rannells (Book of Mormon) and Stephanie J. Block (The Cher Show). A performance was recorded for the PBS series Live from Lincoln Centre which we were lucky enough to see a screening of at our local Cineplex theatre. We have been huge fans of the show ever since.

L to R: Michael Smith (Whizzer), Joseph Stone (Marvin), Andréa Black (Cordelia), Adam Moscoe (Mendel), Jerusha Lewis (Charlotte), Julie Seguin (Trina). Photo: Maria Vartanova. Photo: Maria Vartanova

The story takes place from the late ’70s into the early 80s and centres around Marvin, his ex-wife Trina, his son Jason, his therapist Mendel and his lover Whizzer. The first act opens with “Four Jews in a Room Bitching” which actually sums up a lot of the storylines and humour in the show. But once Marvin belts out “A Tight-Knit Family” the audience quickly learns that he is desperate to have a close, normal, nuclear family despite the fact that he left his wife for Whizzer, a man. This has caused massive tension not only between Trina and Marvin but also between Jason and his father. Throughout the first act Marvin works to define his relationship with playboy Whizzer, and his son. Trina struggles to move past the demise of her marriage and turns to Mendel, and Jason questions if sexuality is genetic while working through a lot of anger towards his father.

Photo: Maria Vartanova

In the second act, after some years have passed, we are updated on where all the relationships stand and are introduced to the “lesbians from next door”. Charlotte, a doctor, and Cordelia, a caterer, who are friends of Marvin. The story continues to develop the portrayal of the typical Jewish family, full of love, a little insanity (of course some bitching) and a lot of guilt (see lines like “rather than humiliate her, killing your mother is the merciful thing to do”). The main focus of Act 2 is Jason’s impending Bar Mitzvah, the tensions it causes within the family and the importance it has in bringing everyone together.

Local actor Cooper Dunn. Photo: Maria Vartanova.

Being the only kid in a group of adult roles (not to mention storylines) isn’t an easy feat, but Cooper Dunn more than rises to the occasion, landing every single one-liner with ease, mastering a wordy and difficult score, and playing off some pretty emotional moments like a pro. The “teeny-tiny band” consisting of only four musicians really helped to bring the show to life and played beautifully the backdrop to Finn’s lyrics.

There were some small opening night snafus and a few interesting staging choices that had actors with their backs to the audience for long periods of time, but, otherwise, our (probably ridiculously high) standards as Falsetto fans were met and we had a great time laughing and dancing along to the infectious music in the audience. (Apologies to the people sitting behind us for our chair dancing!)

Our (probably ridiculously high) standards as Falsetto fans were met and we had a great time laughing and dancing along to the infectious music in the audience.

With the entire book of the show being sung, and no spoken dialogue, Falsettos is definitely not a mainstream show. But we know musical lovers (nerds?) like us won’t want to miss their chance to see such a rare production of a more indie style show.

Falsettos is a story of relationships, family, love, loss and disease. It challenges the idea of the traditional family structure and shows all the different ways a family can look. It is an emotional story—as the tale of any family can be—but is also filled with countless moments of laughter. The score is probably one of the best you’ll ever listen to. The songs are smart, quippy, emotional and funny and there are so many earworms you won’t be able to get out of your head for weeks. (Trust us we know!) We had a hard time narrowing it down to only a few of the best songs, but have a listen to a (slightly longer list) of our favourite numbers from the show below.

Falsettos continues at The Gladstone Theatre (910 Gladstone Ave) until Saturday September 7, 2019. Shows are Wednesday to Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm. Tickets range between $21 to $42. The show runs 2 hours and 30 minutes with intermission.