Full Disclosure: I’m a long-time fan and official member of the Available Light Theatre.
Family drama never gets old. A fact on view at Vern Riffe Center (77 S. High Street, Columbus) courtesy of Available Light Theatre’s flawless performance of the modern classic “Falsettos,” which is running through Oct. 1.
Winner of the 1992 Tony for Best Book and Best Score, the William Finn/James Lapine musical follows the tale of Marvin (Scott Wilson) who leaves his wife (Kim Garrison Hopcraft) and son (Adam Crawford) for his younger male lover (Christopher Storer). Finn and Lapine combine two of their Off-Broadway hits “March of the Falsettos” and “Falsettoland,” each written and presented nearly10 years apart, for a funny and effecting look into a family in crisis.
When first staged in 1981, and later in 1990, the musical was definitely shocking to audiences in the midst of dealing with onset of the AIDS epidemic. But now the play seems more outdated than modern as we live in a post-AIDS scare world. The score was definitely created in the old school musical styles of Richard Rogers, Oscar Hammerstein and Irving Berlin.
Director John Dranschak, who also helmed AVLT’s first and extremely successful foray into musicals with “Merrily We Roll Along” last year, assembles a stunning cast for “Falsettos.”
Wilsonembodies lovesick schmuck and aimless father as Marvin, a man who tries to start a new life while maintaining a relationship with his 12-year-old son. Hopcraft holds much of the show together with her commanding grace as Marvin’s ex-wife, Trina. She’s as equally compelling in the hilarious “I’m Breaking Down” as she is during the emotional aria “Holding to the Ground.”
Another great choice by Dranschak? Casting a local teenager in the role of Marvin’s son Jason. Adam Crawford stays closest to his character as an apathetic, coming-of-age pre-teen dealing with flailing dysfunctional parents, a even more dysfunctional bar mitzvah and the death of a close friend. His tearful “Another Miracle of Judaism” is one of the show’s most touching moments.
Storer pulls out a powerful, yet subtle performance as Marvin’s aloof and ailing lover Whizzer. He quietly grows into the friend Jason needs and gives a tear-jerking rendition of “You Gotta Die Sometime” as his body succumbs to the AIDS virus.
The supporting players also shine just as prominently. Nick Lingnofski is an enjoyable cad (and an amazing dancer) as Mendel the psychiatrist and Trina’s eventual second husband. Danielle Mann and Kate Gersing are a welcome addition in the second act as the perky doctor-caterer lesbian couple living next door. Mann’s “Something Bad is Happening” adds historical realness to an unexplainable disease that was beginning to take so many lives.
Darin Keesing goes with a simple set design, with just a wall of empty frames that the actors move in and out of during some of the songs, and a few furniture set pieces. The band also takes a minimalist approach with just a four-man orchestra consisting of Spencer Channell (synthesizer), Mark Donavan (clarinet, flute, alto and soprano sax), Rick Soriano (percussion) and Andrew Willis (piano), led by Pam Welsh-Huggins.
“Falsettos” is a family tale that will take you on an old-fashioned ride, but in the hands of Available Light, it’s a ride that you’ll not soon want to depart.
Available Light Theatre’s “Falsettos” runs through Oct. 1 in Studio One of the Vern Riffe Center (77 S. High Street, Columbus). Tickets are on AVLT’s popular Pay What You Want System. For more information visit http://avlt.co/falsettos11.
Check out the below video of Wilson, Storer, Mann and Gersing discussing their characters in “Falsettos.”