The Entire Cast of Broadway's Falsettos! Where Are They Now?

News   The Entire Cast of Broadway's Falsettos! Where Are They Now?
 
Falsettos fans were recently given reason to rejoice: Marvin and Whizzer will be back together when the Tony-winning William Finn-James Lapine musical returns to Broadway in spring 2016 under the direction of Tony winner Lapine.

Stephen Bogardus, Barbara Walsh, Chip Zien, Jonathan Kaplan, Michael Rupert, Heather MacRae and Carolee Carmello in the original Broadway production of <i>Falsettos</i>
Stephen Bogardus, Barbara Walsh, Chip Zien, Jonathan Kaplan, Michael Rupert, Heather MacRae and Carolee Carmello in the original Broadway production of Falsettos Photo by Carol Rosegg

Playbill.com thought this would be the perfect time to check in with the multitalented original Broadway company, who created the roles of Marvin, Whizzer, Trina, Mendel, Jason, Dr. Charlotte and Cordelia in the comedic and utterly moving musical. Read all about Michael Rupert, Stephen Bogardus, Barbara Walsh, Chip Zien, Jonathan Kaplan, Heather Mac Rae and Carolee Carmello in this edition of Where Are They Now: The Entire Cast of Falsettos!

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Stephen Bogardus
Stephen Bogardus

Stephen Bogardus, Whizzer

Playbill: What was your reaction when you learned Falsettos was going to Broadway in 1992? Did you think it would be successful? 
SB: I was absolutely stunned to hear 'we' were going to Broadway. And by 'we,' I mean, James (Lapine), Michael (Rupert), Chip (Zien) and I. I received a phone call in my Houston hotel room from James while I was on tour with City of Angels. He explained that Graciela Daniele's production of Falsettos that had wowed audiences at The Hartford Stage (1991) was no longer transferring to the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center. It was this production that first conjoined Bill's two one-acts, March of the Falsettos (1981) and Falsettoland (1990), into Falsettos. Andre Bishop, newly installed as Artistic Director at Lincoln Center Theater, had promised Bill the Beaumont stage (where it would be Tony eligible), but rather abruptly Bill was told the space was now being offered to John Guare's new production of Four Baboons Adoring the Sun; Falsettos was given the Off-Broadway Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. To make a long story short, Bill pulled the production from Lincoln Center, and Barry and Fran Weissler stepped in and offered to produce the show on Broadway. Due to a scheduling conflict, Graciela was no longer available to direct the show, so the Weisslers tapped James to direct the show and James tapped the three of us to reprise our roles. It was a small miracle we ended up doing the show. I had no idea if the show would find an audience on Broadway. We knew Frank Rich (The NY Times critic) loved the show, and we knew it had a serious following amongst its Off-Broadway fan base and musical devotees. I knew we had an extraordinary theatrical experience to offer our audiences but didn't know whether we would find that audience eight shows a week.

Playbill: Do you think it is still relevant to today's audiences?
SB: We're going to find out soon enough, aren't we! The show opened on Broadway in 1992 (although it is set in 1981). The world was still 'dead center' in the midst of the AIDS crisis and William Finn found a way to set his musical dead center into that consciousness without even using the word AIDS. He did that by introducing his audience to seven rather neurotic but lovable characters, all of them perfectly imperfect. The protagonist of this musical was gay! A first, I believe, in a Broadway musical. That character had a lover and two lesbian neighbors! The protagonist's shrink ended up marrying his ex-wife! Bill introduced Broadway theatergoers to a new concept of family, leading us through the lives of these marvelous, quirky characters with an abundance of humor, laughter, Tsoris and heartache. It is the one show men and women, straight and gay, talk more to me about than any other in which I have performed. It is the one show people tell me changed their lives. Today is not 1992 and I don't know if the show will change people's lives, but the story and the exquisite songs and lyrics certainly have the ability to resonate, move, and transport an audience. Of this, I am certain.

Stephen Bogardus, Carolee Carmello and Heather MacRae in <i>Falsettos</i>
Stephen Bogardus, Carolee Carmello and Heather MacRae in Falsettos Photo by Carol Rosegg

Playbill: Do you have a favorite lyric and/or song from the show?
SB: Too many to list....it's a treasure trove! One of many favorite lyrics: "My father's a Homo, my mother's not thrilled at all." So many songs to love and cherish, including "Father to Son" (simple, elegant and stunning), "Baseball Game" (so much f*cking fun to perform), "Unlikely Lovers" (the most gorgeous quartet I've ever performed) and "What Would I Do?" (just plain exquisite).

Playbill: What is your favorite memory of working with William Finn and James Lapine?
SB: Both March of the Falsettos in 1981 and Falsettoland in 1990 were "crazy-wonderful, seat-of-the-pants" corroborative experiences. Bill isn't the most organized composer in the world (to put it mildly) so while James staged scenes in the rehearsal room and tried to figure out where Bill's story was going, Billy would be in his Upper West Side studio banging away on his piano and braying some possible song lyrics. Those music sessions with Bill were eye opening, to say the least. No music written down...just some chords written in succession on a piece of paper that Michael Starobin would turn into piano/lyric sheet renditions in his inimitable chicken scratch. Meanwhile, James would be in the rehearsal hall neatly spreading his trusty index cards over the floor. Completed or semi-complete songs would be labeled on a card, blank cards represented 'holes' in the story, songs that still needed to be written. Sometimes we would write our own dummy lyrics to a tune Bill had written but which didn't yet have final lyrics. A case in point, for several years Lapine and I took to the racquetball court to play our intermediate brand of the game. I think James introduced the idea of using racquetball scenes in Falsettoland. When it turned out that Bill knew nothing about racquetball, it was James and I who supplied Bill with most of the terminology and 'quips' Marvin and Whizzer use in their racquetball scenes. Putting together both March... and Falsettoland was crazy fun and crazy nerve-wracking. Playbill: What is your most memorable audience reaction — either in the theatre or at the stage door — during the run of Falsettos?
SB: Sometimes after the show I would walk through the house of the theatre before exiting a side door that opened to the alley leading to the 45th Street exit. Every so often, a cluster of audience members would still be in their seats. They seemed not yet ready, perhaps unable, to disturb or shake themselves from the emotional journey they had just experienced. The visceral impact the show had on those audience members is etched forever in my memory.

Playbill: Other than yourself, is there an actor you would cast in your role in the upcoming Broadway revival?
SB: I regret I must 'punt' on this question...whoever it is, is in for one helluva ride!

Playbill: What are your current/upcoming projects?
SB: I'm about to do a quick guest spot on a TV show and another very quick turn on a film. Then I head to the Huntington Theatre Co., to play Fredrik in A Little Night Music before heading into rehearsals for Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's bluegrass musical, Bright Star. It will open in the Eisenhower Theatre at The Kennedy Center in December for a five-week run and (with any luck) find its way to NY thereafter.

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Carolee Carmello
Carolee Carmello
Carolee Carmello, Cordelia

Playbill: What was your reaction when you learned Falsettos was going to Broadway in 1992? Did you think it would be successful?
CC: When I got the audition for Falsettos on Broadway, I was excited, but unsure. I had seen Falsettoland Off-Broadway and loved the writing and the direction and the cast. I didn't know how it would go over with a Broadway audience, but I sure was thrilled when I got the job!

Playbill: Do you think it is still relevant to today's audiences?
CC: I do think it's relevant. I think it will play as more of a period piece now, but it's so well written that I imagine it will still touch people deeply.

Playbill: Do you have a favorite lyric and/or song from the show?
CC: I always loved "Unlikely Lovers." It's just such a beautiful song and vocal arrangement, and singing it with Heather and Michael and Stephen every night was so satisfying.

Playbill: What is your favorite memory of working with William Finn and James Lapine?
CC: I always thought James hated me! I remember one day while we were working on a group number, he wanted to switch my vocal line because "well, that note needs to be quiet and lovely and that's not exactly your strong suit, Carolee." Ouch. Billy was/is such an interesting character. They're both brutally honest, which can be tough, but the end result was so brilliant that I tried to have a thick skin. Playbill: What is your most memorable audience reaction — either in the theatre or at the stage door — during the run of Falsettos?
CC: The audience reaction that I remember most clearly was actually from the tour. (I played Trina on the national tour.) We were in Florida and the older audiences were having a tough time. We always had people walking out at different points during the show. At one particular matinee, I was standing in the wings waiting for my next entrance when the lights came up on Marvin and Whizzer in their bed, and I distinctly heard an older man sigh and say, "Oy. Again with the boys?!" I think/hope the reaction around the country would be different today.

Playbill: Other than yourself, is there an actor you would cast in your role in the upcoming Broadway revival?
CC: No! I still want to play the part! I hate getting too old for roles that I love.

Playbill: What are your current/upcoming projects?
CC: I'm fortunate to be in Finding Neverland for the foreseeable future. I'm hoping to reprise my role in Tuck Everlasting, when it comes in next year.

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Jonathan Kaplan
Jonathan Kaplan
Jonathan Kaplan, Jason

Playbill: What was your reaction when you learned Falsettos was going to Broadway in 1992? Did you think it would be successful?
JK: When I first found out Falsettos was going to Broadway in 1992, I had no idea what it was. I had heard of James and Bill Finn for their enormously successful previous collaborations, but, as I was only 11 at the time, I was focused on the Mets.

Playbill: Do you think it is still relevant to today's audiences?
JK: I think this show still holds a great deal of relevance to today's audiences. The show is, first and foremost, a fantastic story. The musical numbers fit perfectly with the material, every number supports the story, and you never find yourself listening for an 'Eleven O'Clock' number - that one stand-out song - because there are so many. As performers, we were, and are, all looking to get lost in a fantastic story night after night; Falsettos gifted all of us with that.

Playbill: Do you have a favorite lyric and/or song from the show?
JK: My favorite song is "Unlikely Lovers." It's simple, direct and heartbreakingly beautiful.

Playbill: What is your favorite memory of working with William Finn and James Lapine?
JK: My favorite memory of working with James was when he would invite me over to his house. Since he was a father himself, I always felt like one of his kids. Billy always felt like a big brother, as did most of the cast — Michael Rupert used to pretend to throw my toddler-aged brother into a trash can, which my brother found hysterical. Playbill: What is your most memorable audience reaction — either in the theatre or at the stage door — during the run of Falsettos?
JK: Without a doubt, the greatest audience reaction was the first preview. It was an entire theater full of Falsettos fans who had been following the show for years, witnessing the first full Broadway production. They were laughing, listening, applauding and weeping.

Playbill: Other than yourself, is there an actor you would cast in your role in the upcoming Broadway revival?
JK: I wouldn't cast myself in that role unless we were doing it at a senior living facility. The kid who comes to mind currently is Jack Broderick, from the recent Into the Woods, done in the Park.

Playbill: What are your current/upcoming projects?
JK: I am a full-time parent to my beautiful little girl, Nolan, while always being on the lookout for other great characters and stories that need to be told.

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Heather Mac Rae
Heather Mac Rae
Heather Mac Rae, Dr. Charlotte

Playbill: What was your reaction when you learned Falsettos was going to Broadway in 1992? Did you think it would be successful?
HMR: When we found out that we were going to be on Broadway, it was a surprise, because the Hartford Stage production directed by the great Graciela Daniele, was supposed to go to Broadway, not James' production. I am sure you know the whole history of how this transpired. And, even though I felt terrible for the other cast, it seemed so right that the original cast should be on Broadway. Since I had only been part of Falsettoland, I had not seen March of the Falsettos. I remember the afternoon that James and Bill asked Carolee Carmello and I to watch a run through of the first act. I was so overwhelmed by it; I cried at its beauty, and laughed at the extraordinary humor. I just knew that the two pieces were meant to be put together. And, I also knew that it would be a great success. The first preview performances were exhilarating, to say the least.

Playbill: Do you think it is still relevant to today's audiences?
HMR: I believe that it is still relevant today. Especially in light of the legalizing of same-sex marriage, although, Marvin and Whizzer did not get married. And, of course, we were focusing on the epidemic of AIDS. Not so much on gay rights. I do wonder about the audiences of today embracing it, because so much of the audience these days are tourists from all over the country and the world. And it seems to me, that there is a certain lack of sophistication in many of the people attending the theatre. But, then look at how Fun Home has been so successful. I hope to be proven wrong.

Playbill: Do you have a favorite lyric and/or song from the show?
HMR: Oh, my favorite song has always been "Unlikely Lovers." It is a masterpiece, and I never tire of singing it. Over the years, Michael, Stephen, Carolee (and Janet Metz) and I have performed it at benefits, and tributes to James and Bill. We once sang it at Carnegie Hall as guests of the Gay Men's Choir. And a favorite lyric that Dr. Charlotte sings: "Do you know how great my life is? Saving lives and loving you!" (Sung to her partner, Cordelia.)

Playbill: What is your favorite memory of working with William Finn and James Lapine?
HMR: Oh, there are so many extraordinary moments with both of them. I had worked with James before when I played Mary in Merrily We Roll Along at La Jolla Playhouse. I adore him. He is so incredibly smart, brilliant in his vision for what he sees and wants on that stage. One memory sticks out; after we won the Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Book of a Musical, but not the Tony for Best Musical, he spoke with the cast after the show one night. And he was so wonderful, and honest. He said that even though we won those two prestigious awards, that he was not sure of the fate of our show. Because we didn't win the true Prize. He was proud of us and expected us to forge ahead. We did, and thanks to the incredible expertise of Fran and Barry Weissler, we ran until June 1993. A year and a half for a very unique and artistic musical is a triumph in my book. Oh, what can I say about the genius that is Bill Finn. He makes me laugh — his larger than life presence. His music! Every moment spent with him has been truly inspiring. But James and Bill together: an extraordinary partnership, unlike any other. I love them both!

Heather MacRae, Carolee Carmello, Jonathan Kaplan and Michael Rupert in <i>Falsettos</i>
Heather MacRae, Carolee Carmello, Jonathan Kaplan and Michael Rupert in Falsettos Photo by Carol Rosegg

Playbill: What is your most memorable audience reaction — either in the theatre or at the stage door — during the run of Falsettos?
HMR: When we were in our preview period, I was a bit unprepared at the response from the audience. It was unbelievable! I knew that there were many fans of both, March... and Falsettoland. But I was unprepared for the huge response from the audience. It made it so exciting to go out on that stage every night. I also loved talking with people after the show in front of the theatre, because so many were moved and inspired by Falsettos. Families would express how wonderful it was to see a new kind of family, made up of gay, straight, young people. We were a family, all striving to be together with dignity. And all helping to raise the young boy, Jason. And I can't count how many times lesbian couples would come up to me and Carolee (later Maureen Moore), and say how glad they were to see a lesbian couple depicted in a musical, in such an honest and straightforward way. Dr. Charlotte and Cordelia are a very happy couple, well-adjusted in their lives, and deeply in love. They would definitely be married now in this time. And, of course, it was always devastating to talk with people who had lost loved ones to AIDS. I lost my dear friend, Paul Jabara, during the run of Falsettos. He was my friend from Hair, and he became an Academy Award-winning songwriter. I went to his funeral in the afternoon, and was back in the show that night. It took on new meaning for me after that.

Playbill: Other than yourself, is there an actor you would cast in your role in the upcoming Broadway revival?
HMR: Who would I cast as Dr. Charlotte today? Well, I love Lisa Howard. I think she would be wonderful. And my friend, Anne Nathan. (I think both of them have played it before.) I saw a production at the Sharon Playhouse in Connecticut last summer. And the girl who played my part [Jane Bruce] was wonderful! She was so good, and to think she hadn't even been born when I did it in 1992!

Playbill: What are your current/upcoming projects?
HMR: Right now, I am working on a new cabaret act that will be very personal. I am continuing to work on The Three Sisters with Nick Westrate, Dane Laffrey and an incredible group of actors. We want to do it in a house, so it is a site-specific production. We did it two summers ago, and we all lived together in a house on a lake. Each act took place in a different room of the house. The last act was outside on a huge deck, and one of the sisters swam in the lake. I play Anfisa, the old nanny. It was something. Next spring, we will do I Remember Mama at The Two Rivers Theatre in Red Bank, NJ. It is the highly acclaimed Transport Group production directed by Jack Cummings with a cast of ten women playing all the roles. And, all of us over 65! And l hope to be doing Hair Retrospection again. We just did it at KCRep this past February-April. It was incredible. Six members from the original Broadway cast (1968-1972). And six younger people. With lots of our stories connecting the songs. Directed by Eric Rosen.

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Michael Rupert, Marvin

Playbill: What was your reaction when you learned Falsettos was going to Broadway in 1992? Did you think it would be successful?
MR: I, of course, was thrilled when Falsettos was announced for Broadway. I thought it was a funny, quirky and a very moving show that deserved a wider audience.

Playbill: Do you think it is still relevant to today's audiences?
MR: I do think the show is still relevant today. A story of family and re-defining what a family is and can be is quite relevant. Also, love and the pain of losing someone you love, everyone can relate to.

Playbill: Do you have a favorite lyric and/or song from the show?
MR: "Four Unlikely Lovers." Absolutely my fave.

Playbill: What is your favorite memory of working with William Finn and James Lapine?
MR: James was the calm eye of the storm. Bill was the creative storm. They were both great to work with because they both knew what they were after. Playbill: What is your most memorable audience reaction — either in the theatre or at the stage door — during the run of Falsettos?
MR: One performance I remember seeing a middle-aged man sitting with his wife front-row center, who at the end of Act One looked like he was completely baffled why his wife had dragged him to this crazy, loopy show. Honestly, I don't think he was having the best time and thought we might lose him at intermission. Well, Act Two starts, and he's still there. And, by the end of the show, when Chip sang "Lovers come and lovers go. Lovers live and die fortissimo. This is where we take a stand. Welcome to Falsettoland," the guys was in tears. We had truly moved him, and that was cool.

Playbill: Other than yourself, is there an actor you would cast in your role in the upcoming Broadway revival?
MR: Christian Borle. I think he'd be great!

Playbill: What are your current/upcoming projects?
MR: I'm currently playing Judge Pitkin in John Rando's revival of On the Town. Also, working on an EP of some songs I wrote.

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Barbara Walsh
Barbara Walsh
Barbara Walsh, Trina

Playbill: What was your reaction when you learned Falsettos was going to be revived on Broadway?
BW: I was thrilled to hear of the Falsettos revival! I think it's a bit overdue, but still highly relevant, and will hold new resonance for the audience.

Playbill: Do you think it is still relevant to today's audiences?
BW: I believe it will be successful. The characters are winning and flawed and human, and those are qualities, I believe, speak to audiences on a human level. I think it's relevant, because we are still ensconced in a struggle to accept each other's differences. Also, the face of the family is changing dramatically, and at its core, Falsettos is a family story.

Playbill: Do you have a favorite lyric and/or song from the show?
BW: Favorite lyric, from a Trina song, "Holding to the Ground": "keeping up my head as my heart falls out of sight." Well, "Breaking Down" was enormous fun, but "Four Unlikely Lovers" is my fave!

Playbill: What is your favorite memory of working with William Finn and James Lapine?
BW: One memory, opening night on Broadway, James getting emotional in a brief speech to the cast. Just really thanking us, and expressing that we were doing something important. With Bill, I recall working with him on Trina's Song in Act One. By the way, its first lyric is another fave: "I'm tired of all the happy men who rule the world." Nothing dated about that! But I digress! He was changing a section of lyrics in that song, can't remember specifically which ones. I felt sort of honored, that I might have had an impact on the role enough for the writer to change lyrics! Playbill: What is your most memorable audience reaction — either in the theatre or at the stage door — during the run of Falsettos?
BW: The audience reaction every night was pretty amazing! During previews and for many months after opening, I could not stand up after "Breaking Down"! It really stopped the show! That blew me away! Totally enjoyed that! I have to include here, that there are still times on the street, that someone will stop me and say how Falsettos changed their life.

Playbill: Other than yourself, is there an actor you would cast in your role in the upcoming Broadway revival?
BW: There are so many amazing young women who could do Trina justice! But, for me, Leslie Kritzer would be astonishing!

Playbill: What are your current/upcoming projects?
BW: I am currently performing at Theatre 79, in a Transport Group production. It is an exquisite and highly theatrical story of Helen Keller, called Three Days To See. Yes, my husband Jack Cummings conceived and directed it. We are an ensemble of seven, all ages and types, all playing Helen in her own words. It's a huge reveal of a remarkable woman. Then in September I begin rehearsals at The Public Theater for a new Michael John La Chiusa musical, First Daughter Suite, a sequel to his First Lady Suite. I play Pat Nixon. It's glorious! Can't wait!

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Chip Zien
Chip Zien
Chip Zien, Mendel

Playbill: What was your reaction when you learned Falsettos was going to Broadway in 1992? Did you think it would be successful?
CZ: It was anything but a forgone conclusion that Falsettos would end up on Broadway. There was some tricky negotiations between Lincoln Center, the Weisslers, the creative team, and cast members about who would be involved and in what theater the show ultimately would play. I'm exceedingly proud that I was a part of it - and a part of every iteration preceding our run on Broadway. It was and always will be the cornerstone of everything that has happened for me professionally. And, yes, I certainly thought it would be successful.

Playbill: Do you think it is still relevant to today's audiences?
CZ: Of course.

Playbill: Do you have a favorite lyric and/or song from the show?
CZ: "What Would I Do," "Unlikely Lovers" "...I love you I loved you I meant no disgrace...""...welcome to Falsettoland...(sung properly with pain and pride)"

Playbill: What is your favorite memory of working with William Finn and James Lapine?
CZ: And, don't forget Michael Starobin! Sometimes confusing? Sometimes frustrating? Sometimes exhilarating? Yet, it always felt new and important. It always felt like there was a lot at stake. We were a family in every sense of the word. We witnessed Billy and James writing a show for the ages. Playbill: What is your most memorable audience reaction — either in the theatre or at the stage door — during the run of Falsettos?
CZ: Opening night on Broadway was a uniquely euphoric experience. A gigantic celebration on and offstage. Sort of like when you graduate and throw your cap into the air... I have also the excruciating memory of friends we lost during this period of time and the post-show sadness and warlike camaraderie often on display in the alley leading from the stage door to 45th Street...

Playbill: Other than yourself, is there an actor you would cast in your role in the upcoming Broadway revival?
CZ: I don't know. A big tall blonde guy.

Playbill: What are your current/upcoming projects?
CZ: I have no idea what's next. Currently nearing the final week of the very enjoyable It Shoulda Been You.

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