This non-stop sing-a-thon set in the late 70s and early 80s leaves almost no pause for breath. Faster than you can say polyester polo shirts, we’re plunged into the neurotic and chaotic world of serious DILF Marvin (Tamlyn Henderson), who has left his wife Trina (Katrina Retallick) for chiselled young dreamboat Whizzer (Ben Hall).
Poor Marvin is trying to keep the peace, despite a somewhat tempestuous affair with Whizzer, fractious feelings for Trina and a strained relationship with his young son, Jason (Anthony Garcia) — all at a time when the term “rainbow family” had yet to burst forth in a cloud of glitter. Complicating matters is a burgeoning romance between Marvin’s therapist Mendel (Stephen Anderson) and Trina. Oy vey! Then, once the 80s hit, it’s Day-Glo colours. Jason’s bar mitzvah needs planning and the AIDS crisis looms, throwing a shadow over this manic tale of domestic angst.
Phew, cocktail please.
The cast throw themselves into their performances with plenty of gusto, doing some major heavy lifting, literally, as they manoeuvre the wooden boxes which make up the set. Henderson and Retallick are particularly worth noting, but really, the ensemble works together like magic, including young Garcia who more than holds his own against his adult cohorts.
It’s a small shame that the show’s libretto tells everything with such rapid-fire lyrics, and a hefty dose of New York-centric humour (hello, the opening number is called Four Jews In A Room Bitching), that it can sometimes leave your head spinning. And for any show that is entirely sung, musical numbers can become almost incidental, and even great songs can get a little lost. However, there are plenty that make their mark, such as the witty opening number, the very funny The Baseball Game, and Trina’s on-the-edge I’m Breaking Down.
Perhaps due to this Tony Award-winner originating from two separate shows which were later combined, it could use a tiny bit of pruning to make it pack more of a punch, especially in the first half, which seems a tad overloaded with numbers (a jump into the surreal with the song March of the Falsettos is quirky, but an odd fit). However, the second half, aided by the refreshing introduction of two new characters, is tighter and manages to widen the scope of the show, serving as a timely reminder of the impact of HIV without descending into melodrama.
Falsettos has plenty to sing about. It’s smartly directed by Stephen Colyer, the cast is a delight, the male leads hunky (a topless boxing scene is much appreciated), and it certainly makes for an entertaining night at the sparkling new Eternity Playhouse.
INFO: Falsettos is showing at the Eternity Playhouse at Darlinghurst, Sydney until March 16. It’s part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival. Details: darlinghursttheatre.com