Love comes in all shapes and sizes. Love can tell a million stories. Or in the case of Falsettos, it comes as 39 songs sung by the cast over one evening. There’s no dialogue. Songs emerge as if they’re discussions or arguments. It’s and inventive emotional roller coaster, dealing with love, break-ups, marriages and death. But there’s a sweetness and a beauty to the work that captures the thrills and anxieties of life. And the ensemble works hard to make this slice of life from late 70s/early 80s New York seem like a much more universal tale.
The show centres around Marvin (Daniel Boys) who has left his wife, Trina (Laura Pitt-Pulford) and his son to take up with a young man called Whizzer (Oliver Savile). Marvin feels guilty about leaving his wife for another man, so he introduces her to his psychiatrist Mendel (Joel Montague) — only for Mendel to fall in love with Trina and marry her.
Marvin’s an unlikable manchild from the outset. Even with his fabulous polyester shirts and corduroy trousers, he’s demanding and uptight, bossing both his ex-wife and his lover around. Daniel Boys does, however, portray Marvin as human, with an emotional performance as this conflicted man, particularly when singing about love for his son and his lover. And as emotions run high towards the end, the sobs in the audience are audible… as is the person behind us quipping”this sure ain’t Mamma Mia…”
The lyrics by William Finn — based on a book by Finn and James Lapine — are intricate and witty capturing the anxieties of New Yorkers finding their way through life. No opportunity to sing out the various points of a complicated discussion is overlooked.
While this is the first UK production, the show has been around in its current form for over 25 years and has a strong following. It even has its own Twitter account which randomly tweets lyrics from the show. Perhaps its popularity is because its ideas of modern families, extended families of lovers same-sex partners and ex-partners captures the messiness of life perfectly.
Falsettos, The Other Palace, Palace Street, SW1E 5JA. Tickets £19.50-£65, until 23 November 2019.
Last Updated 06 September 2019