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MusicalFare's "Falsettos"

I adore the current MusicalFare production of the William Finn and James Lapine musical, Falsettos. I did not expect to. When the same company produced the play several years ago I didn’t much care for it. Falsettos is a wonderful piece, but that production, many years ago, was maudlin and seemed to miss its central message.

Not so with the powerful celebration of love and living now on stage at the MusicalFare Theatre in Snyder. It would seem that time has given perspective to a story that no longer seems merely topical.

In Falsettos, Marvin is leaving his wife, Trina, for a male lover, Whizzer Brown. The self-absorption of the adult characters, especially Marvin, naturally cause disarray in the family, particularly for the couple’s son, Jason, whose bar mitzvah is looming. Marvin leaves the family but wants to keep the benefits of family. Marvin’s psychiatrist, Mendel, begins to see his wife Trina professionally—and then socially. Through all this, Jason develops an attachment to Whizzer, which adds a final complication when the man turns out to be terminally ill.

The new production hits precisely the right tone at every point. While Whizzer’s illness is a central plot complication, this is not a show about a disease. A first-rate cast, under the direction of Randall Kramer, steers the plot through its many avenues to tell how we all must learn to grow up and value the people in our lives. Louis Colaiacovo is excellent as Mendel, the kind-hearted psychiatrist with a blurry sense of medical ethics—I especially admire his singing of the show’s final lines, a stoic anthem for survival that he delivers without a hint of remorse, pity, or apology. John Fredo gives a solid and confident performance as Marvin. Marc Sacco is perfection as Whizzer Brown, Marvin’s charismatic lover—and the age difference between Sacco and Fredo adds an interesting and appropriate dynamic to the relationship between to the two men that I have never seen in any other production, emphasizing the theme that life offers no guarantees. Pamela Rose Mangus and Michele Marie Roberts are charming and affecting as the lesbians next door. Debbie Pappas is sublime as she recreates her performance as long-suffering Trina, while adding dimension to a woman who offered mostly comic relief in the first outing. Ben Schafer navigates the role of Jason capably and appealingly.

The choreography by Doug Weyand is marvelous—inventive, lively, and appropriate to both the characters and the dramatic situations. The set by Chris Schenk is marvelous—abstract, minimal, and perfect in its service to a rapidly moving script and to rapidly shifting dramatic situations. In short, the production is marvelous. Falsettos continues through this weekend. Get a ticket if you can by calling 839-8540.