A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
A sparkling production of a New York cult classic
Last night I attended the official opening night and Victorian professional premiere of Falsettos, playing at Chapel off Chapel and presented by the very talented crew at StageArt.
Set in New York in the early 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic was gaining traction (particularly amongst the gay community), Falsettos is a madcap Tony Award-winning Broadway musical about love, relationships and therapy.
There are five main characters in the show. Marvin (Don Winsor) has left his wife Trina (Sarah Shahinian) and son Jason (played on this night by Ben Jason-Easton) to start a relationship with the dashing and slightly flaky Whizzer (Sam Ward). Marvin, Trina and (unwillingly) Jason are in therapy with psychiatrist Mendel (Nick Simpson-Deeks). To complicate an already complex situation, Mendel develops feelings for Trina.
The five main characters in Falsettos: (from left) Mendel (Nick Simpson-Deeks), Trina (Sarah Shahinian), Marvin (Don Winsor), Whizzer (Sam Ward) and (centre) Ben Jason-Easton as Jason
Meanwhile, Jason is preparing for his bar mitzvah and trying to come to terms with the interesting family dynamics around him.
In the second act, we are introduced to two additional characters, the 'lesbians next door', Dr Charlotte (Francesca Arena) and Cordelia (Jenni Little). It is Dr Charlotte who alerts us to the emergence of a new disease, "something so bad that words have lost their meaning".
All of this is delivered via a virtually non-stop musical score, that is, there is no dialogue. The 39 musical numbers are variously high energy, poignant and uplifting, the harmonies often complex and challenging.
Marvin in therapy with Mendel
So, did I enjoy the show? Yes! Don Winsor is a knockout as Marvin. He captures the essence of the character beautifully, and his singing is first-rate. As well as having a sweet baritone voice, he has a face that is instantly familiar; perhaps this is because he recently played Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady. Marvin's role is the glue that binds this show, and Winsor's strong performance and the way he relates to the other characters ensures a successful dynamic.
Marvin and Whizzer battle it out on the tennis court
Also central to the show is the role of the son, Jason. This is a huge role for a child actor to take on. It's two hours of singing, dancing and acting, being on stage through most of the show, and having to variously be pouty, defiant, confused and loving. It's no surprise to learn the role is being shared by two actors (Ben Jason-Easton and Riley Flood). As noted above, it was Jason-Easton playing the role on opening night, and WOW!, what a brilliant job he did. He has a presence and maturity that belies his young years. He must surely have a bright future.
The stagecraft and production of this show was most impressive. There are some difficult scenes, and they are handled sensitively. While overall a comedy, I did notice a few tears being wiped away at the end of the show. It's difficult not to be moved by the concluding scenes.
Overall, this is a fabulous production and not to be missed!
Falsettos plays at Chapel off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran, at 7.30pm Monday to Saturday (plus weekend matinees) until Sunday 11th February.
Tickets are $49 - $69 (plus b/f). Click here to buy your tickets online, or call the box office on (03) 8290 7000.
The production has two one-hour acts, with a 20-minute interval. It contains adult themes and content.