FALSETTOSMusic and Lyrics by William Finn, Book by William Finn and James Lapine
Director – Lon D. Barrera
Co-Director – Tyler Jeffrey Adams
Music Director – Rebecca Lowrey
Choreographer – Christina Kudlicki Hoth
Set Design – Lon Barrera, Tyler Jeffrey Adams, and Kevin Brown
Lighting Design – Scott Davis
Costume Design – Victor Newman Brockwell
Property Design – Dawn Blasingame
Sound Design – Kevin Brazil
Stage Manager – Erin Maher
David Lewis – Marvin
Brendon Gallagher – Whizzer
Stephanie Felton – Trina
Ben Phillips – Mendel
Jennifer Kuenzer – Dr. Charlotte
Ashley Renae Markgraf – Cordiela
Matthew Vinson – Jason
Rebecca Lowrey – Keyboard
Allison Suding – woodwinds
Kami Lujan -- Percussion
Reviewed Performance: 9/25/2015
Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The story involves Marvin and his ex-wife Trina who have found other relationships after their divorce all while raising their son Jason in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Marvin’s lover Whizzer Brown becomes the one who continues to help keep the family sane when the rules keep changing. Falsettos combines laughter, love, lust, liberation, loss, and life’s lessons in this unique musical theater piece.
Falsettos first premiered on Broadway in 1992 and won Tony awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. There was talk of a Broadway revival of Finn’s critically acclaimed musical to return to Broadway this season, but due to lack of financial backing, the revival fell through.
Director Lon D. Barrera and co-director Tyler Jeffrey Adams brought together a cast that worked seamlessly together and took the audience on a journey through the emotional highs and lows that families bring out when things get tough. It is moving, touching, and unnerving.
Music Director Rebecca Lowrey helped the cast shine within their musical abilities. The majority of the songs combine amazing harmony with in the round which highlighted the actors’ vocals. This was highlighted in “Four Jews in a Room Bitching” and “Jason’s Bar Mitzvah”.
Choreographer Christina Kudlicki Hoth had her work cut out for her in this musical. Not only was she working with the actors, but also the moving set that was seamlessly interwoven into each song. Energy abounds throughout the musical due to the work Hoth put into the dance numbers. The use of 1970’s dance moves had the audience in laughter and all smiles as the musical progressed.
Lon Barrera, Tyler Jeffrey Adams, and Kevin Brown designed the set and it was fantastic. Upon entering the theater, there are seven modern white rolling chairs in a row that open the audience up for anticipation of what is to come. The rest of the set consisted of moving parts that were configured to make each of the locations within the musical. Each element was carefully created for multi-use that worked beautifully.
Lighting design by Scott Davis was complicated and set the mood for the musical. Falsettos is a fast moving musical that intertwines songs and the lives of the family that sometimes made your head spin. Davis though has created a masterpiece of lighting to direct your mind to what is going on to not get lost in the all the elements. One of my favorite parts was at the beginning when the set is made up of seven chairs, and they are bathed in a rainbow from the lights behind. In “Marvin Hits Trina” the switches between red, to blue, to purple, each color represents the emotion that is so deeply rooted in that part of the song. As we all know, the hues of the rainbow are the colors that make up the flag for the LGBTQ community.
Victor Newman Brockwell’s costumes were impeccable. The guys were dressed in either slacks or flared/bell bottom jeans with tight fitting shirts that were opened wide at the neck. Mendel was dressed professionally in slacks and pullover sweaters. The ladies wore muted colors in dresses, pants, and of course the shoulder pads were ever present. Brockwell did an amazing job and brought the audience to the 1970’s through the costumes.
Prop design by Dawn Blasingame was the epitome of the late 1970’s. In the opening scene the vintage vacuum cleaner showed the attention to detail. From the classic chess set to the dishes, I was transported to a different time period, yet it was kept simple enough that it spanned time periods.
Kevin Brazil’s sound design was well executed and matched perfectly with the scenes. The different doorbells, helped distinguish the set and location of the musical. Brazil was thorough and each and every element was flawless.
David Lewis as Marvin was fantastic. He was the core that blended the two families together, but it was through not only love, but mutual hatred at times. Vocally Lewis was perfect in every single song, but shined in “Father to Son.” While Marvin was with Whizzer, Lewis showed the love and passion through soft caresses, fired eyes, and vocal inflection that spanned the gamete. Lewis had a superb performance that had the audience in tears by the last scene with the journey that he was on.
Whizzer portrayed by Brendon Gallagher was Marvin’s lover, but more importantly the one that Jason responded the best with. Gallaher was phenomenal not only vocally, but through his acting skills that had me on the edge of my seat waiting what he would do next. In “The Games I Play” Gallagher was soulful and moving. Through his nonchalant attitude with raised eyebrows to his diminishing physical abilities, each and every one was portrayed with extreme care and respect to what Whizzer was going through. Every emotion was poured out and Gallagher held nothing back.
Trina played by Stephanie Felton was the ex-wife of Marvin who tried desperately to control her feelings as she grasped her new normal. In “I’m Breaking Down” Felton was seen as a crazy out of control woman, but it was in the realness of it that she shined. As props don’t go according to plan, Felton easily made it part of the choreography and never slipped a beat. Her vocals are strong and solid in “Holding to the Ground”. Her fierce looks and high pitched vocals only added to Trina as a frustrated mom who only wanted what was best for her son.
Ben Phillips who portrayed Mendel, the psychiatrist and Trina’s lover, had the perfect charm and nervous gestures of a man in love. Phillips’ smile and wide eyes only enhanced his choreography in “Everyone Hates His Parents” which had the audience in laughter. Vocally he shined in “A Tight Knit Family”. Yet it was Phillips’ demeanor of his hands behind his back, gentle vocals, and caring gestures that showed how much Mendel cared about others and his formal stature as a psychiatrist.
Jennifer Kuenzer as Dr. Charlotte is charming and heartwarming. Kuenzer’s spunky personality and confidence was perfect for Charlotte who has the job of not only being Cordiela’s partner, but also the doctor that notices and fights for the new virus that emerged in the 1970’s. Kuenzer’s vocals paired perfectly in “Something Bad is Happening” and showed her gentle side. It was the short intimate moments that Dr. Charlotte’s full personality was shown, and Kuenzer’s bright eyes, wide smiles, and laughter paired perfectly with her compassion through a gentle touch and tears in her eyes as she showed every emotion possible.
Cordiela, played by Ashley Renae Markgraf is a lesbian neighbor of Marvin’s and caterer for Jason’s Bar Mitzvah. Markgraf’s eyes shine throughout the show with excitement and joy as Cordiela does what she loves, cooking and helping Dr. Charlotte. Markgraf does seem uneasy at moments which leads to an interruption between herself and who her character was. Vocally she harmonized beautifully in “Something Bad is Happening” with Kuenzer.
Matthew Vinson as Jason was the epitome of a pre-teen boy. With his crossed arms, heavy sighs and exasperated looks Vinson had down pat the frustrated son. Vinson’s vocals were outstanding in “Father to Son” yet it was in “Miracle of Judaism” that he showed off his range and depth. Each and every time he rolled his eyes; there was a confident smirk that held just at the surface to see how far Jason could push his family.
Musicians Rebecca Lowrey, Allison Suding, and Kami Lujan enhanced the musical to show off the talent of the cast. While not visible to the audience, their musical talent was not only heard but felt and moved the musical to the next level.
Runway Theatre has done a fabulous job with Falsettos and tells a heart-warming story that is needed in today’s society. The additional of videos pertinent to the story only brought the musical the heart of what really matters, love. This show should be on everyone’s must-see list.
Runway Theatre, 215 North Dooley St., Grapevine, TX 76051
Runs through October 18th
**This show is rated R due to content. Friday–Saturday at 8:00pm and Sunday matinee at 3:00pm Tickets are $25.00, $22.00 for seniors (60+) and students. For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.runwaytheatre.com or call the box office at 817-488-4842.