Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Falsettos - Midsumma Festival review

Set in 1979, Falsettos is an entertaining yet affecting musical of a New York family trying to keep it all together. With music and lyrics by William Finn and the book by Finn and James Lapin, the story explores the complexities of life and the struggles we face to find the balance in the different roles we lead.

Dom Winsor as Marvin manages to show the varying facets of his life with an intimacy that is rarely seen in musical theatre with his relationship with his son (played by Riley Flood on the night attended) being one of the most rewarding ones to watch unfold. Flood delivers a highly convincing portrayal of a teenager who is intellectually on the same playing field as the adults around him. Playing Marvin's on/off boyfriend Whizzer, Sam Ward brings confidence and charm to the character, however the chemistry between Marvin and Ward, which is integral to Falsettos, feels the weakest of all the relationships in the show.

Sarah Shahinian is truly exceptional as Trina and expresses much emotion and feeling through the slightest of facial expressions. While the musical numbers require a loud voice and grand movements, she finds subtle and nuanced ways of showing Trina's state of mind and sharing her thoughts with the audience. Similarly, Nick Simpson-Deeks as Mendel, the family psychiatrist who falls in love with Trina, ensures that his character is never relegated to the sidelines and remains an important part of the story through a dynamic performance incorporating humour and sincerity.

Daniel Harvey's set design is simple yet effective with a skyline silhouette of New York running along the back of the stage. The floor is covered in black, white and grey squares resembling a chess board, hinting at the careful game of life that all these characters must play to find comfort and love from those around them.

This idea is reinforced throughout the show with Tyran Parke's direction, where characters are often standing towards the back of stage even when not involved in a scene or conversation, but their presence is constantly felt. Parke displays an acute awareness of how to elicit emotions from his cast without having to be obvious and trusting that the audience will understand what is happening.

Musical Director David Butler gives a masterful performance at playing all the musical numbers on a grand piano tucked away to the side of stage. Throughout the two and a half hour show, he never misses a beat with this highly demanding music.

StageArt's first production for 2018 is an impressive start to what is looking to be a great year for this independent theatre that consistently stages strong productions that are seldom performed. Falsettos is a perfect example of such a show that stays with you long after the final note is played.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran 
Season: until 11 February | Mon - Sat 7:30pm, Sat 1:30pm, Sun 12pm and 4pm 
Tickets: $49 - $69 
Bookings: Chapel Off Chapel

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