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Jane Enkin

A Review of Falsettos, Produced by the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre and Dry Cold Productions: Fun Poignant, and An Exceptional Theatre Piece

Falsettos at the Berney Theatre May 5-13 2018

by Jane Enkin, May 7, 2018



Falsettos is both fun and poignant. The characters are all incredibly open with one another and the audience, singing passionately their thoughts and feelings. The story concerns chosen family; the constellation around Marvin includes his ex-wife, his son, his lover, his psychiatrist, and the couple next door. With tender moments and intense arguments, they somehow carry on.


The Falsettos of the title are the four males, immature each in his own way, trying to grapple with what it means to be a man in relationship with others. By the second act, they have all entered into more mature states of mind, symbolized by the son Jason's up-coming Bar Mitzvah. Planning for the Bar Mitzvah becomes a major plot point, and the parents are most visibly Jewish in their arguing styles when it comes to the simcha plans.


There are references to late 70s and early 80s New York culture, and a glimpse into gay culture of the time (the play is adapted from musicals written by William Finn and James Lapine in those years.)


Many songs in the show are reflections on love; the characters are all freshly amazed to have the good fortune of wonderful love in their lives. Not every song is about love, though – arguments and frustration are all deftly expressed. There are delightful internal rhymes in the songs – bored after nine months together, Marvin and his gay partner Whizzer sing, “I'd kill for that thrill of new love.”


It's exciting to listen to a play that is entirely sung through. A lively three piece band supports the singing actors. Finn's music is beautiful, with frequently returning motifs and lyrical lines. And this cast has command of all the technique the music requires, from Broadway-belted anthems to thrilling pianissimo moments. The ensemble often comes together in overlapping melodies and fabulous harmonies.


Each character has their chance to sing solo, often in a tight spotlight. A doctor, sensitively played by Donna Fletcher, performs a disturbing song as she realizes “Something bad is happening,” piecing together the evidence of what eventually was labelled AIDS. Both Paula Potosky, as the doctor's partner, and Justin Stadnyk, as Whizzer, sing beautifully and thoughtfully. Marvin, (well-played in all his glorious confusion by Ryan Kelly) who in Act 1 is impulsive and rude in his interactions – the other characters call him mean -- is introspective and tender when he's alone. The repressed housewife Trina, (delicious work by Laura Olafson) has several introspective solos too, but her showstopper is all comedy. In her kitchen, with real food to manhandle, she's literally all over the place, leaping, collapsing on the floor, climbing under the table as she sings, “I'm breaking down.”


An experienced singer, 13 year old Keenan Lehmann as the son Jason plays his most complex, emotionally rich acting role to date. His voice is wonderful, his dancing is fun, and his acting is poignant. He's a joy to watch. It's great to see WJT Artistic Director on stage, in his comic, heart-warming performance as Mendel the psychiatrist. Both Lehmann and Weinberg are outstanding delivering the wacky, over-the-top choreography overseen by Movement Consultant Robin Dow.


Director Mariam Bernstein and Musical Director Rachel Cameron, along with lighting designer Bill Williams and the rest of the artistic team, have put together a lovely, exceptional theatre experience.

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