Falsettos at Princeton Summer Theater pops and fizzes; whirls with color and takes the audience on a timeless journey that still rings prescient and true. The show explores, expands and expounds upon love – both whimsical and real, devastating and delirious. The tragicomedy from 1992 contains a fast-paced, sung-through score by William Finn and a book written by William Finn and James Lapine. The story bounces through the music – with bright and witty, conversational lyrics that expose the unfolding of an honest, amusing and complicated family dynamic. The story traces a young Jewish family as it breaks, bends and stretches and love is tested, lost and discovered.
Michael Rosas, as bright and highly-desired Marvin, delivers an incredible performance; pulling out heart-wrenching highs and lows and easily moving through the score with confidence and clarity. Dylan Blau Edelstein as Whizzer soars with personality and spark and brings life to the character. Bridget McNiff as Trina truly sells both comedic and honest moments and builds a picture both endearing and empathetic at once. Justin Ramos is smart, funny and charming as therapist Mendel – a man captivated by his own patient. Hannah Chomiczewski croons Jason’s sweet yet growingly anxious viewpoints, while truly providing insight into the life of a young boy. The cast is completed by Chamari White-Mink as Dr. Charlotte, and Michelle Navis as Cordelia – both of whom arrive in the latter half of the show with a welcomed power, force and upwards energy.
The set design (by Jeffrey Van Velsor) draws the audience into a wonderland of color and evocative visceral imagery – with children’s blocks and toys arrayed on shelves and lit from behind. The cascade of rainbow colors accompanied by the childlike comfort and the resonance of the feeling of therapy grants one the ability to release; the ability to connect. The lighting design (by Megan Berry) acts as a magnificent frame to this piece – a scrim lit with another array of rainbow colors throughout the show pull an even more evocative color palette from the emotional story. And a cascade of steps in the center of the stage laid bare a brilliant structure for the action to take place; to fall over; to climb around; to peel onto; to slide down. The design served the storytelling in new and exciting ways and let the staging compliment the many different forms and facets of humanity exposed in the show.
Daniel Krane has directed the show with a captivating eye attuned to the magnetic and dynamic moments that pull the audience through the show. A four-piece orchestra peeks just behind the back set of shelves and plays beautifully throughout the show, under the direction of keyboardist Amber Lin. Jules Peiperl’s costumes glow and shine beautifully amidst all the other colors of the show – and set each character apart in an accompanying color palette. The design elements altogether truly take the story to an ‘larger than life’ place.
The themes of Falsettos come to life in this new energetic, imagining – while the material finds a way to reach through the ages into the present. Some references may remain dated on face value, yet the show pulses with a universal relevance beyond time. The production proves to be both hilarious and truly heart-breaking at the same time – delving masterfully into both the highs and lows of life and love of all sorts and shapes.
Falsettos plays through June 30 at the Hamilton Murray Theatre. Tickets are available at: http://www.princetonsummertheater.org/