Falsettoland – Review by Tom Holehan

Norwalk’s plucky Music Theatre of Connecticut was one of only three professional theatres in the entire country allowed to present live performances during the pandemic and now they are back to a full season of theatre that continued last weekend with the opening of “Falsettoland”. This wonderful chamber musical by William Finn and James Lapine is an ideal fit for MTC’s intimate stage.

Set in and around New York City in 1981, “Falsettoland” centers around gay dad Marvin (Dan Sklar, terrific), his ex-wife, Trina (Corinne C. Broadbent) and son, Jason (real-life progeny, Ari Sklar) who is about to celebrate his bar mitzvah. The party’s guest list will include Trina’s current husband, Mendel (Jeff Gurner), Marvin’s ex-lover, Whizzer (Max Meyers) and the “lesbians next door”, Dr. Charlotte (Jessie Janet Richards) and Cordelia (Elissa DeMaria).

“Falsettoland” is a combination of three sung-through musicals written in the early 1980s about the neurotic, lovable Marvin. They include “In Trousers”, “March of the Falsettos” and “Falsettos”, all of which contributed to the current “Falsettoland”. Jewish identity, the meaning of family and the shadow of the AIDS epidemic (although never mentioned by name) were central themes in all the works and I found the show just as funny, moving and memorable as it was when originally produced.

At MTC, under Kevin Connors brisk and unobtrusive direction, Dan Sklar proves the company’s MVP with his strong vocals and magnetic presence. His chemistry with Meyers is palpable especially in the touching love song, “What More Can I Say” or when, later in the evening, both men join Richards and DeMaria for the gorgeous ballad, “Unlikely Lovers”. “What Would I Do?”, the musical’s heartbreaking finale, is also sung gloriously by both Sklar and Meyers. Some of the women tend to be strident and shout lyrics when, especially in a theatre the size of MTC, a more subtle approach would work infinitely better. The entire company, however, harmonize beautifully on all the group numbers and every actor has individual moments to really shine here.

Simple set pieces moved by the actors are all that you need for this less-is-more musical and scenic designer Lindsay Fuori accommodates nicely as does Diane Vanderkroeff with the 1980s costumes. The “tiny band”, comprised of Pianist/Musical Director David John Madore with drums by Steve Musitano/Chris McWilliams, is absolutely right for this particular production. All told, this is a very special musical given a satisfying production at MTC.

“Falsettoland” continues at the Music Theatre of Connecticut through November 21. For further information visit: www.musictheatreofct.org or call the theatre box office: 203.454.3883. Patrons are required to wear masks and show proof of vaccination at the door.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

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