Updated: Mar 8, 2019
★★★★½ - Delicious
Las Vegas Little Theatre continues it’s 41st season with “Falsettos,” book by William Finn and James Lapine, and music and lyrics by William Finn. The 2017 production garnered a Tony nomination for Best Revival (Musical).
The thing about this is, it’s dated yet still relevant today with its themes of sexual confusion, love, and the questions of what constitutes a family. Directed by Walter Niejadlik and Gillen Brey, this production finds those marks and hits them pretty much on target.
The show isn’t a musical in the normal sense – it’s more like “Phantom of the Opera” or “Les Miserable” in that there are very few spoken lines. Niejadlik and Brey have cast some gorgeous voices. There isn’t a single (adult) cast member whose vocal acuity doesn’t mesmerize. It’s also a nod to their skill as directors that the four-piece band, led by Toby McEvoy, doesn’t (for the most part) overpower the voices.
Led by Aron Shanley in the role of Marvin the play starts with a bang. Shanley’s tenor is delightful. His attempts to modulate volume are an issue at times; he doesn’t quite get over the musicians or other cast members when he should have the lead lyric. Shanley also has a problem with remaining in the moment. Overall, he appears a bit uncomfortable, not sure of what to do with himself.
Joe Hynes plays Mandel with a great comedic timing and flair. His antics keep the energy high and he relates to the other characters even when standing on the sidelines. If you’ve ever heard that an actor can make you laugh or cry with a simple expression or nod of the head, Hynes does it with panache.
Meeting him point for point is Melissa Riesler in the role of Trina, the discarded wife. Her “Breaking Down” is a wonder to behold. Riesler uses every bit of her physical and emotional instrument; she’s funny, she’s heartbreaking, she’s pouring everything into the lyric and she hits the back row with all of it.
Keith Dotson is wonderful. He plays Whizzer with style and grace; we’re never left to wonder what he’s feeling beneath the words. His delivery and expression on “Games I Play” is stunning.
Young Jake Fagone plays Jason, the confused son Marvin leaves behind. He’s got a lot of stage presence here and gives a credible performance. Demyia Browning and Amanda Collins fill out the cast, showing up in Act Two as the lesbian neighbors, filled with support and concern for everyone.
Ron Lindblom never fails to amaze. Using the main theme, his set is crafted using giant block letters to spell LOVE which break apart to form the various furniture pieces to define spaces. Coupled with Ginny Adams’ lights, the production glows.
Something to bear in mind, though. “Falsettos” begins with comedy but Act Two finds it sliding further and further into drama, yet the cast transitions into poignancy well, bit by bit, tugging on one heartstring at a time.