The Other Palace – until 23 November 2019
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
27 years after its Broadway debut, Falsettos finally arrives in London. William Finn and James Lapine’s energetic musical tells the story of an unconventional Jewish family in 1980s New York. The controversy around a production about Jews having no Jewish creatives involved hasn’t died down, but Marvin (Daniel Boys) has left his wife Trina (Laura Pitt-Pullford) for his best friend Whizzer (Oliver Savile) and suggests that Trina visit his psychiatrist Mendel (Joel Montague). Mendel falls in love with Trina while Marvin and Trina’s 12-year-old son Jason watches and tries to make sense of the situation. The first act is crammed with songs that bounce along with joyfully bitchy lyrics that are a lot of fun, but a few could be cut without damaging the plot. Laura Pitt- Pullford gleefully steals the show with her big number I’m Breaking Down, hamming it up with a wine bottle and various kitchen implements. It’s a blast – the cast showcasing their talent and creating many laughs.
The second act is a little more coherent and darker, with the parents getting worked up planning Jason’s bar mitzvah. Marvin’s lesbian neighbours are introduced – chef Cordelia (Natasha J Barnes) and doctor Charlotte (Gemma Knight-Jones). They don’t really have much to do apart from add to the glorious harmonies, but Charlotte’s anxiety about the mysterious disease striking down homosexual men signals the descent into tragedy for the gay couple. The inevitable ending is staged beautifully, with the acceptance that the group are a real family and surrounded by love leaving a lump in your throat.
The cast are all on top form, nailing the tricky lyrics and melodies, George Kennedy played Jason on the night I saw the show, and he was cute and confident, holding his own amongst the talented adults. Director/choreographer Tara Overfield-Wilkinson’s routines and pacing are slick and sassy. PJ McEvoy’s set design – a chess board floor and picture frames that initially show projected images of ideal family portraits and change to various primary colours as the décor of each location is projected on them – is bold but slightly cartoony.
This show will not be to everybody’s taste, but I loved it – a fast and furious score and an animated cast in outstanding voice, Grab a ticket while you can.