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Theatre Review (LA): Falsettoes by William Finn at the Third Street Theatre

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Falsettos, with music and lyrics by William Finn and a book by Finn and James Lapine, seems dated now. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. The music is still glorious and in the right hands, as superbly displayed in the case of the production at the new Third Street Theatre, the show can still be very moving and beautiful to hear.

What is dated about the material is the plot about AIDS. When it was written, nearly 20 years ago, AIDS was a modern-day plague mowing down people, especially gay men, by the thousands. Now, thank God, AIDS can be controlled by medications and a full life is possible. There is even hope of a cure in the wind. Nevertheless the musical takes me back to a very sad time when many of us lost friends and loved ones.

Falsettos is not just about illness. The show examines varieties of love in a totally affirming way. There are no villains, just people who must open their minds and hearts to accept “Love” that may not be what they imagined it to be. Marvin (Jesse Einstein) is married to Trina (the extraordinary Lani Shipman) and they have a son Jason (Major Curda with credits galore). Marvin meets Whizzer (Richard Hellstern) and falls in love. Every idea of what a relationship is supposed to look like gets thrown in the air. Marvin may love Whizzer but he wants to stay close to his wife and son. Trina seeks therapy and ends up having an affair with her therapist (Chip Phillips). Throw in a lesbian couple (Kim Reed and Wendy Rosoff) to add some spice and things get even more mixed up. When Whizzer gets AIDS everything changes again.

I really loved the women and thought the men were quite good. Everyone had a terrific voice and Richard Israel, who is working all over town these days, does his usual good job of directing. He gets heartfelt performances from his actors and keeps things moving. The music director is one of the best in town, Gregory Nabours, who just finished a run of his own new musical, The Trouble With Words, that was voted Best Musical at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival.

Go see and hear this wonderful work at Third Street Theatre at 8115 West Third in Los Angeles. Falsettos will play until Oct. 16.

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