Falsettos is a musical with a book by James Lapine and William Finn and music and lyrics by Finn, comprising March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, the last two in a trio of one-act off-Broadway plays (the first was In Trousers) focusing on Marvin, his ex-wife Trina, his son Jason, and his gay lover Whizzer.
After 23 previews, the Lapine-directed production opened on April 29, 1992 at the John Golden Theatre, where it ran for 487 performances. The opening night cast included Stephen Bogardus, Michael Rupert, Chip Zien, Carolee Carmello, Jonathan Kaplan, Heather MacRae, and Barbara Walsh.
Falsettos played in 2006 at the George Street Playhouse. The production was directed by David Saint.
SynopsisAct I: March of the Falsettos
It's 1979 in New York City, and Marvin, his son Jason, his Psychiatrist Mendel and his lover Whizzer are Four Jews in a Room Bitching (well, technically, Whizzer's only Half Jewish). Marvin steps forward to explain his situation: He has left his wife, Trina, for Whizzer, but Marvin wants a Tight-Knit Family and is attempting to forge a new family situation with the addition of Whizzer, a situation no one is that happy with.
Trina, on Marvin’s recommendation, pays a visit to Mendel where she wearily wonders how her life has turned out this way. Mendel, who is instantly attracted to her, tries to console her, telling her that Love is Blind. Meanwhile, Marvin and Whizzer comment on their relationship: the two have very little in common, apart from the fact that they both love fighting and are insanely attracted to each other. Both worry that The Thrill of First Love is wearing off.
The cast presents an interlude: Marvin at the Psychiatrist, a Three-Part Mini Opera. In part one, Mendel asks Marvin about his relationship with Whizzer and Marvin weighs the pros and cons of the relationship, ultimately concluding that he does love Whizzer. In part two, Mendel shifts the topic to Trina, and the session becomes one where Mendel, obviously aroused, interrogates Marvin about his ex-wife's bedroom habits. In part three, Marvin and Jason provide counterpoint on their strained relationship.
Jason, who is 10, is very worried that because, as he puts it, "My Father's a Homo", that he'll turn out to be one too, and is very afraid of turning out like his father. Because he is worried, he acts up, and Everyone tells Jason to see a Psychiatrist at once. It is only after Whizzer softly adds his voice to that of his parents that Jason agrees to see Mendel.
It is very clear that Marvin is trying to pigeon-hole Whizzer into the role of homemaker, and they fight. Meanwhile, Trina complains to Marvin how her role in the family dynamic is being phased out as Whizzer becomes increasingly prominent in Marvin and Jason's lives. All agree that This had Better come to a stop. More over, Trina reflects that "I'm Breaking Down".
Jason is acting up again, and Trina phones Mendel frantically to "Please come to Our House" for dinner and therapy. Mendel arrives and immediately charms Trina. He and Jason settle down for Jason's Therapy, in which Jason frets about his future and Mendel, in a very round-about way, encourages him to simply relax and enjoy life. After several such dinner/sessions, Jason asks Mendel what his intentions are towards Trina, and Mendel makes A Marriage Proposal. Clumsy and neurotic though he may be, he's sincere, and Trina accepts him, to Marvin's fury. He his losing his Tight-Knit Family, and also his therapist.
In Trina's Song, the titular singer reflects on her situation. She is tired of the man's world she lives in, and even though she knows that Mendel is the same kind of man Marvin is, slightly childish and neurotic, he loves her and she could do a lot worse. She may not be exactly happy, but he's hers. In contrast, the four men sing a hymn to masculinity in all it's aspects, the three adults singing in a falsetto to match Jason's unbroken voice, in The March of the Falsettos.
Marvin teaches Whizzer to play chess, but bitterness and ill-feeling boil over The Chess Game until a fight to end all their fights breaks up, and they break up. Meanwhile, Trina and Mendel move in together and start Making a Home. As he packs, Whizzer reflects on "The Games I Play" with his own heart, and finally comes to the conclusion that he does not love Marvin.
Trina and Mendel send out wedding invitations, and Marvin goes crazy. He confronts Trina and incoherently accuses her of trying to ruin his life, finally breaking down in rage and slapping her. Shocked by his actions, both reflect that I never wanted to love you, a sentiment Marvin repeats to Jason and Whizzer.
Marvin is finished with Whizzer, and his relationship with Trina is in tatters, but Marvin can at least salvage his relationship with Jason, who has just discovered women to his immense relief. Marvin sits down Jason for a talk, Father to Son and tells him that he loves him, and no matter what kind of man he turns out to be, he will always be there for him.
Act II: Falsettoland
Mendel shines a flashlight into the audience on a dark stage, welcoming us to Falsettoland, the story's conclusion. It is 1981, two years later. Marvin has realized that it's About Time that he grows up and get over himself, and he has managed to maintain his relationship with Jason, who is now preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. He has not seen Whizzer for two years, and has still not gotten over him. The cast is enlarged by two: the Trina and Mendel's Lesbian neighbors, and Marvin's friends, Dr. Charlotte, an Internist, and Cordelia, a kosher Caterer.
One day, when Marvin arrives to take custody of Jason for the weekend, Trina informs him that it is now time to start planning the bar mitzvah, probably the last pleasant thing the ex-couple will ever do together. The pair immediately starts bickering, to Jason's dismay and Mendel's amusement. Mendel encourages them to have a simple party, but Trina (and Cordelia, the caterer) will have none of it. It is "the Year of the Child", after all, the year that every Jewish parent dreams of: the year their child is bar mitzvahed.
Jason has more on his mind than the Torah, however. He is trying to decide which girls to invite to his bar mitzvah: the girls he should invite, or the girls he wants to invite. Reaching a discussion in this delicate situation, would be a Miracle of Judism.
The scene moves to Jason's Little League Baseball game, and everyone is there at The Ball Game. Everyone is sitting watching Jewish boys who can't play baseball play baseball, when Whizzer suddenly arrives. Jason had asked him to come, so he came. Marvin is struck by how little he's aged, and a tentative offer of starting the relationship up again is offered just as Jason, miracle of miracles, actually hits the ball. He's so shocked he forgets to run.
An interlude: A Day in Falsettoland. In part one, "Dr. Mendel at Work", Mendel listens to the blather of a yuppie patient and agonizes over being a sixties shrink stuck in the eighties, and how his work is taking a toll on his marriage to Trina. In part two, "Trina works it out", Trina reveals Marvin and Whizzer are back and wonders why that is bothering her. In part three, "The Neighbors Relax", Mendel and Trina jog and discuss Marvin and the Bar Mitzvah, and Dr. Charlotte comes home to Cordelia cooking "neuvelle bar mitzvah cuisine." Cordelia asks Charlotte how her day was at the hospital, and Charlotte exclaims that today was a rare day without a death. Meanwhile, Marvin and Whizzer play racquetball and argue when Whizzer beats Marvin soundly. All reflect on how wonderful life is.
The peace doesn't last long. Marvin and Trina are warring over every single aspect of the Bar Mitzvah, which makes Jason want to just call the whole thing off. It is up to Mendel to console the boy, telling him that "Everyone hates his Parents" at his age, but everyone also gets past it and moves on to hate them less.
Marvin sits in bed one morning, looking at the sleeping Whizzer. "What More Can I say?", he says, wondering at how much he loves him. Dr. Charlotte, meanwhile has started to become aware that "Something Bad is Happening" among young gay men in the city, who arrive at the hospital sick with a mysterious illness that no one seems to know anything about. Rumors are spreading, but the disease is spreading faster. And then Whizzer collapses during a game of racquetball.
As Whizzer enters the Hospital, with a disease that the audience immediately knows to be AIDS, Trina begins to see her world fall apart around her as someone she shouldn't care about but does anyway is clearly sick. She is barely Holding to the Ground and this blow to her family may just be too hard to handle.
In Whizzer's Hospital room, the entire cast gathers to cheer him up, everyone commenting on how good he looks. Marvin provides love, Cordelia chicken soup and Mendel some terrible jokes. Everyone agrees that is it Days Like This that make these secular Jews believe in God. Only Jason, in childish honesty, is able to tell Whizzer the truth: that he looks awful.
Mendel and Trina sit Jason down and give Jason the option of Canceling the Bar Mitzvah if he feels he can't go through with it, and Jason is finally told that Whizzer may not recover. Marvin sits in Whizzer's hospital room, soon joined by the Lesbians, and the four Unlikely Lovers wonder how much longer their love can last.
As Whizzer's condition worsens, Jason turns to God, asking him to let Whizzer get better, and make another Miracle of Judism. He'll even get Bar Mitzvahed if Whizzer gets better. But it's too no avail, because, as Dr. Charlotte re-iterates Something Bad is Happening to Whizzer. He is soon deathly ill, and he steels himself to meet his maker, reflecting bravely that You Gotta Die Sometime.
Suddenly everyone bursts into the hospital room. Jason has had an epiphany: he wants to hold The Bar Mitzvah in Whizzer's Hospital room so he can be there. Trina couldn't be prouder, and everyone, for some reason, can only think how much Jason looks like Marvin. Jason is Bar Mitzvahed, entering Adulthood as Whizzer begins to leave his, for Whizzer can suddenly take no more, and is taken out of the room.
Marvin is left alone. He sits and asks the departed Whizzer "What Would I Do if you had not been my friend?" Whizzer appears, dressed as we first saw him, and the two sing one last time, and then Whizzer is gone. Marvin is comforted by his family, now short a member, as Mendel bids us goodnight from the crazy, sad world known as Falsettoland.
- Four Jews in a Room Bitching
- A Tight Knit Family
- Love is Blind
- Thrill of First Love
- Marvin at the Psychiatrist (A Three-Part Mini-Opera)
- Everyone Tells Jason to See a Psychiatrist
- This Had Better Come to a Stop
- I'm Breaking Down
- Please come to our House
- Jason's Therapy
- A Marriage Proposal
- Trina's Song
- March of the Falsettos
- The Chess Game
- Making a Home
- The Games I Play
- Marvin Goes Crazy
- I Never Wanted to Love You
- Father to Son
- Welcome to Falsettoland
- The Year of the Child
- Miracle of Judaism
- The Ball Game
- A Day in Falsettoland
- Everyone Hates His Parents
- What More Can I Say
- Something Bad Is Happening
- Holding to the Ground
- Days Like This I Almost Believe in God
- Cancelling the Bar Mitzvah
- Unlikely Lovers
- Another Miracle of Judaism
- You Gotta Die Sometime
- Jason's Bar Mitzvah
- What Would I Do?
Awards and nominations
- Tony Award for Best Musical (nominee)
- Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical (winner)
- Tony Award for Best Original Score (winner)
- Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical (Rupert, nominee)
- Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Kaplan, nominee)
- Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Walsh, nominee)
- Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical (nominee)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (Walsh, nominee)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival (nominee)
- Theatre World Award (Kaplan, winner)