Isaac Newton had his apple. William Finn had Charlie Rubin.
Rubin, a future Seinfeld writer, was two years ahead of Finn at Williams College when he asked Finn if he wanted to write a musical. “I had no idea that I did, and I said yes,” Finn remembers.
The farthest reach of that spur-of-the-moment turning point returned to Broadway October 27 as Falsettos, the 1992 marriage of two Off-Broadway one-act Finn musicals—1981’s March of the Falsettos and 1990’s Falsettoland. That pairing paid off with Tonys for Best Original Score and Best Book.
March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland are actually chapters two and three in a trilogy Finn began in 1979 with In Trousers, which introduced the driving force of all three shows: a self-absorbed, rather bratty mass of Jewish neuroses named Marvin.
Christian Borle, coming directly off of two Tony-winning performances (Peter and the Starcatcher and Something Rotten!), is the Marvin of the moment, struggling to create, as he sings, “a tight knit family” out of his nearest and dearest. That would include wife Trina (Stephanie J. Block), son Jason (Anthony Rosenthal), and Marvin’s newly acquired male lover, Whizzer (Andrew Rannells). Of course, even Marvin’s long-suffering shrink, Mendel (Brandon Uranowitz), can’t make this work out, although he goes above and beyond the call of duty by marrying Trina. In the second act, the family extends to the lesbians next door, a kosher caterer and doctor played by Betsy Wolfe and Tracie Thoms, respectively.
After the opening night performance, the cast and first-nighters marched to the midtown Hilton’s massive grand ballroom to celebrate the show’s return, with the quartet of leading men paying homage to the show’s Reagan era by all sporting Air Jordans, and where Borle admitted he revels in Marvin’s imperfections. “I like how resilient he is, I suppose, and how dedicated he is—ultimately—to his family, but I really like how flawed he is. It’s fun to play those flaws, and it’s fun to sing those songs, also.”
One of his most affecting moments is a father-son scene near the end. “Acting with Anthony is the easiest thing in the world,” he declares. “He’s a natural, sweet talent, no pretense. He’s not acting at all. As James Lapine wants us to be, he is being.”
As for Rosenthal, all of 12: “I really enjoy this role. Jason feels a little bit of everything in the show. He’s great to explore and experiment with as a character.”
His favorite moment is not, as you might suspect, when he proves to be a startling effective Jewish Little Leaguer but his big tell-off song (“Everyone Hates His Parents”). “I get to work with Brandon, and he’s super-awesome in that scene.”
Uranowitz, a Tony nominee for An American in Paris, plays the Jewish psychiatrist on the case—in fact, all over the case. “There’s something a bit unethical about him,” the actor allows, “but all of these characters are really flawed. I think he has a good heart, and I really like his wit. He’s got a sharpness to him that I envy on some level.”
SEE PHOTOS FROM OPENING NIGHT:
Block’s recent motherhood has changed—and profoundly deepened—her playing of Trina. “I’ve listened to these cast recordings for the past 20 years, and things that I never heard before—because I was listening with different ears—I hear now, as a mom,” she contends, “things that perk my ears and bring tears to my eyes. I hope you can sense the kind of humanity I’m trying to bring to this wonderful woman.”
Jordan Roth, young president of Jujamcyn, personally decreed the reprise of Falsettos. As he tells it, “Lapine and I were seated next to each other at a dinner for the opening of Into the Woods at the Delacorte, and he asked ‘What’s your bucket-list show?’ I said, ‘I can’t believe you’re asking me this because it’s yours: Falsettos.”
The original Falsettos cast were present and accounted for on this opening night. In addition to Barbara Walsh (Trina), there were her likewise Tony-nominated ex-husband (Michael Rupert) and son (Jonathan Kaplan); the original Whizzer (Stephen Bogardus); the lesbian neighbors (Carolee Carmello and Heather MacRae), and the most senior of all the original cast members, Chip Zien, who started out as Marvin in In Trousers and graduated to his shrink for the other two installments.
Almost overlooked was pre-Broadway director-choreographer Graciela Daniele, who was the first to put March of the Falsettos together with Falsettoland to create Falsettos. “Mark Lamos asked me to do it for The Hartford Stage,” she recalls. “The Weisslers came up, saw it, liked it and wanted to bring it to Broadway. They asked if I’d like to do it. I said, ‘Of course, but I think it should be James [Lapine] and Bill [Finn] who do it.’”
Gracefully, she bowed out. Not for nothing do they call her Graciela.
WATCH: PLAYBILL MEETS THE STARS ON THE OPENING NIGHT RED CARPET: