Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 5, 2009


PACE, Academy of Music, Northampton
through May 10, 2009
by Meghan Allen

P.A.C.E. undertakes "Falsettos" at the Academy of Music this month. "Falsettos" is a musical by William Finn that ran on Broadway in 1992 and 1993. The play is the second and third parts of a trilogy. The first show is called "In Trousers", the second is "March of the Falsettos", and the third is "Falsettoland."

"Falsettos" is an operatic musical that deals with the same characters. Marvin (played by Michael Holt), is a gay Jewish man who battles his inner demons while playing ping pong between his wife, his lover, and his son. Holt sinks his teeth into the complexities of Marvin's struggles. Nikkie Wadleigh effortlessly plays Marvin's ex-wife Trina, who is neurotic, loving, and scorned. Amidst the chaos of her failing marriage and therapy appointments, Wadleigh brings a humor to the role that engages the audience, and her voice is a delight. Noah Loving portrays their son Jason. Loving's entertaining facial expressions and interpretation of typical teenage angst make him a pleasure to watch. Rounding out the cast are Ed Ryan as Mendel, the family shrink; Andrew Gilbert as Marvin's lover Whizzer; Stephanie Devine as Cordelia and Rebecca Rose-Langston as Dr. Charlotte. Ryan's sense of coming timing, Gilbert's strong belting notes, and Devine and Rose-Langston's sweet and sassy portrayal of lovers and friends add depth to the piece. Memorable numbers include Wadleigh's hilarious rendition of "Trina's Song" in Act 1 and the ensemble's comic relief number "The Baseball Game" in Act 2.

The score is lyrically sophisticated and chock-full of intricate harmonies. The actors have no time to catch their breath, as there is no spoken dialogue in the "Falsettos." It sounds good on the whole, but some harmonies could use tightening. The piece feels somewhat dated, as it tackles the subject of A.I.D.S., though never mentioning the disease itself. The set is minimal and that is okay, except that the actors constantly move furniture onstage. It can be somewhat distracting, and the direction of the piece seems to be more focused on the furniture moves than the actors conveying of emotions at times.