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Produced by the Acting Company of Triad Pride Performing Arts, Falsettos is playing a short run at the newly named Camel City Playhouse (previously ARTC Theatre) in the former Garage building at 110 W. Seventh St., Winston-Salem.
Falsettos premiered on Broadway in 1992 and was nominated for seven Tony Awards. It won Best Book and Best Original Score. The 2016 Broadway revival, which was nominated for five Tony Awards, was adapted and filmed for PBS' Live from Lincoln Center TV series.
William Perry Morgan has masterfully directed this Triad Pride production with spare but effective set design, perfect costuming by Stephen Hale and Andy Mock, props by Stephen Hale, and sound by Paul Musick and Andy Fuller.
Music direction by Cristian Albee is superb as is his performance as the Teeny Tiny Band. Albee plays piano flawlessly throughout and is crucial to the success of this show. The songs do most of the work; they are funny, sad, frightening, and redemptive.
The cast features Tommy Foster as Marvin, Brian Kilpatrick as Mendel, Heather Levinson as Trina, Jacob Bogan Hammill as Whizzer, Sage LeWinter as Jason, Brittany Corne as Dr. Charlotte, and Emmaline Conlin as Cordelia/Caroline. Full cast and crew bios can be found in the production's digital playbill.
Falsettos was originally written as two one-acts that got put together to make a whole. Act I was written before the AIDS crisis, so it has an innocence and a kind of wondrous lack of foreshadowing of what is to come in Act II.
The themes of Judaism, homosexuality, and masculinity are explored throughout, with particular humor and originality.
Marvin – self-absorbed, entitled, and spoiled – was played with brilliant tremulousness by Foster. Marvin is a Master of the Universe type who expects the rest of the world to fall in line with his desires, and often enough it does. He lays it all out in "A Tight-Knit Family." He wants his wife, Trina, his son, Jason, and his lover, Whizzer, to cook his meals and love him…he wants it all.
Marvin wants to give his son wisdom, but how can he if he’s not very wise? At least that’s how his story begins.
All of the characters get to learn and grow. They get to be human in the best of all possible ways: expanding their hearts and learning to be vulnerable.
In the role of Trina, Levinson was in fine form. Her voice was clear and bright, her comic timing was on point, and every emotion was fully expressed in her voice, face, and body. Her performance of "I’m Breaking Down" was a high point of the show. Also, she wore great costumes, especially her shoes and workout gear – perfectly ’80s. We get a strong sense of the character's perspective in "Trina’s Song," when she sings, "I’m tired of all the happy men who rule the world."
Mendel is psychiatrist to Marvin, Trina, and Jason. As played by Kilpatrick, he is kinetic, fully emotional, and besotted with Trina. Predictably, everybody’s shrink is also everybody’s referee, the family peacekeeper.
Jason, played by LeWinter, is completely adorable and crazy-making – like all the best 12/13-year-olds. LeWinter was comically precocious. In his song "My Father’s a Homo," he sings, "I’m too smart for my own good, and I’m too good for my sorry little life."
Hammill’s Whizzer is a bad boy but a sweet bad boy. Jason will listen to him when he won’t listen to anybody else. Like all the people in Marvin’s orbit, Whizzer has a rich inner life that threatens to be sidelined by Marvin’s incessant and unreasonable demands. He has two especially revealing and affecting songs: "The Games I Play” and "You Gotta Die Sometime." Hammill has a lovely voice, but I kept waiting for him to cut loose a little more.
Corne and Conlin round out the ensemble as Dr. Charlotte and Cordelia/Caroline, respectively. These characters describe themselves as the lesbians next door. Both actors did a fine job in their portrayals and were especially affecting in their duet, "Something Bad Is Happening."
This collaboration between Triad Pride Acting Company and Camel City Playhouse was successful on every level, and the addition of Camel City to the Downtown Arts District is inestimable. On this particular Friday, Trade Street was buzzing with a celebratory feeling and a sense of gearing up for Pride month. Falsettos plays right into that.
Falsettos continues through Sunday, June 5. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.