Tag Archives: Tara Overfield Wilkinson

Falsettos

★★½

The Other Palace

Falsettos

Falsettos

The Other Palace

Reviewed – 5th September 2019

★★½

 

“The strong performances cannot mask the fact that Falsettos feels disparate, and as though it’s lacking a voice”

 

Falsettos opens with Four Jews in a Room Bitching. Or that’s the name of the opening number, anyway. It’d be difficult to tell otherwise, since it’s not especially clear where they are, or why they’re there. And they don’t even appear to be doing much bitching. Although this musical’s no stranger to it, as anyone who’s been on Twitter in the past few weeks will know that it’s been mired in controversy for its lack of Jewish representation in a story that allegedly pivots around Judaism. That certainly didn’t seem to be the focal point of this production, however, but then it’s also difficult to say what was.

Originally conceived as a trilogy of one-act musicals by William Finn and James Lapine, Falsettos is a conglomeration of In Trousers, March of the Falsettos, and Falsettoland. It centres on Marvin (Daniel Boys), a man trying to maintain his relationship with his ex-wife Trina (Laura Pitt-Pulford) and son Jason (Albert Atack in this performance) after having come out as gay and left them for his boyfriend Whizzer (Oliver Savile). Things take a further complication when Marvin’s shrink Mendel (Joel Montague) becomes romantically involved with Trina, as the show reflects on the wealth of different loves one can experience, and the non-conventional forms it can blossom in.

While its depiction of homosexuality and non-traditional families may have been controversial in the ’80s when March of the Falsettos debuted, the messy story leaves it feeling lacking in substance in today’s (slightly) more accepting climate. It’s hugely noticeable that Falsettos is three musicals stitched together, as characters leap from moment to moment in their arcs without any time being allowed to let these changes develop organically, or for them to settle effectively. The love between Mendel and Trina, for example, feels unearned when most of the buildup is Mendel lecherously fantasising about her during his meetings with Marvin. Finn’s music, too, robs a number of scenes of their emotional heft as nigh-on every song takes on a quirky, light-hearted tone – the impact of darker elements such as domestic violence and terminal illness is completely undermined when underscored by major chords.

However, in a number of moments, the levity of the music, as well as its enjoyably unpredictable use of tempo and key changes, is utilised excellently in numbers such as The Baseball Game, and Pitt-Pulford delivers the stand-out performance in I’m Breaking Down. Boys has superb comic timing, and the mesh of the company’s voices is truly beautiful, although two of them – lesbian couple Cordelia (Natasha J Barnes) and Charlotte (Gemma Knight-Jones) – don’t appear at all until the second act – another sign of the unpolished unification of separate pieces.

The strong performances cannot mask the fact that Falsettos feels disparate, and as though it’s lacking a voice. The chessboard set from PJ McEvoy is superfluous, trying to force a metaphor that simply isn’t in the text, and Tara Overfield-Wilkinson’s direction favours chasing laughs over emotional honesty. Whether these issues stem from the absence of Jewish voices in the rehearsal room, or are just an overall problem with the production will no doubt be the subject of further Twitter debates – either way, Falsettos is missing the specificity that lets it truly land.

 

Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by The Standout Company

 


Falsettos

The Other Palace until 23rd November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Eugenius! | ★★★★ | February 2018
Suicide | ★★★½ | May 2018
Bromance: The Dudesical | ★★★★ | October 2018
Murder for Two | ★★★★ | December 2018
The Messiah | ★★★★ | December 2018
Toast | ★★★ | April 2019

 

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Come From Away

Come From Away
★★★★★

Phoenix Theatre

Come From Away

Come From Away

Phoenix Theatre

Reviewed – 18th February 2019

★★★★★

 

“truly unique and remarkable”

 

Telling the true story of what happened to the small town of Gander, Newfoundland in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Come From Away finally receives its triumphant UK premiere. 

The show, with book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein was first produced in Ontario in 2013 and has since had record breaking runs in San Francisco, Seattle, Washington and Toronto. Opening on Broadway in 2017 it is now the longest running Canadian musical there and it’s not difficult to see why.

September 11th 2001, for reasons at first unknown to those in the sky, American airspace is suddenly closed to all traffic. Planes are diverted with thirty eight of them having to land at Gander Airport, more used to seeing no more than half a dozen landings a day. With the population of the town almost doubling within a few hours, every resident springs into action to help out in whatever way they can.

An outstanding ensemble cast of twelve play the townsfolk, passengers and crew. With one hundred minutes continuously onstage they effortlessly deliver some challenging songs in a variety of styles and perform clever choreography (Kelly Devine) whilst simultaneously flitting between several characters.

With a visually stunning, yet minimal set design (Beowulf Boritt) we’re transported from jumbo jet to bar, Dover Fault to cargo hold, all with little more than a dozen chairs, a few tables and some impressive lighting (Howell Binkley).

The phrase ‘rollercoaster of emotion’ is often overused, but for once it seems perfectly fitting. In Come From Away we witness love, prejudice, grief and joy – one minute the audience are laughing out loud, the next, wiping away a tear.

The devastating events of 9/11, one of the darkest moments in American history, may not initially seem like the best choice, or even an appropriate one, for a musical. But this isn’t a history lesson – the terrorist incidents themselves do not form the basis of the show, in fact they are barely directly mentioned – this is a story about kindness and the proof that evil will never succeed in breaking human spirit even in the darkest depths of adversity.

Throughout previews, the show has had standing ovations nightly – immediate ones from the whole audience. What’s more, most of the audience even remain for the play out track possibly because we get to see the hugely talented band who have spent most of the night tucked away in the wings.

A truly unique and remarkable show which I hope gets the audiences it deserves.

 

Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com

Photography by Matthew Murphy

 


Come From Away

Phoenix Theatre until 14th September

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Chicago | ★★★★ | April 2018

 

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