First things first, GO SEE THIS SHOW! Falsettoland will complete its San Francisco run this weekend – 02.10, 02.11, 02.12 -, so get thee to Brown Paper Tickets and BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW . . . then come back and read the rest of my review.
Okay, now that you have reserved your seats, let me tell you about this production of Falsettoland – James Lapine, book and William Finn, music and lyrics – presented by the newly formed, Stirfry Theatre.
From the Stirfry website . . .
This poignant and rarely performed one-act, about a family facing the specter of AIDS in the the early ‘80s, was called “an achingly articulate musical” by The New York Times and a “burst of genius” by Time Magazine.
For its San Francisco Debut, Stirfry Theatre is proud to remount its inaugural production, a staged concert version of this musical, exploring the universal themes of love, loss, and family.
I had not seen this show before so I entered the The Alcove Theater with very few expectations. I assumed that folks would be talented, as many San Francisco community productions are, but I was not expecting the level of polish and power that emanated from each of the performers. The cast: Andrew Apy, Lawrence-Michael C. Arias, Romar DeClaro, Jean Harriet, Alex Hsu, Jennifer Oku and Nicole A. Tung blended their voices well and individually, there was nary a false note or weak moment. These seven, three appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity, could no doubt hold their own on any stage, so for them to be involved in this size of a production is commendable and shows their commitment to this new theater company. While each took full advantage of their individual moments, I thought that Romar De Claro was particularly strong in his role as Whizzer, Nicole Tung had strong acting chops and you will not leave the show without being wowed by the poise of the only young person in the cast, Andrew Apy.
One of the first things that you will notice about this show is that it is not an “Asian American” production. I think this is very cool as the Asian American arts community needs to have many expressions, both focused on Asian American issues as well as productions that take on broader themes. The show itself had a Sondheim-esque feel that demands attention and the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee feeling moments were deftly handled by the simple yet effecting staging. Big props to musical director Diane Torres-Koss and pianist Doug McGrath. That said, I was not quite a moved by the story itself. While the songs were deeply meaningful and the narrative moved along at a sharp pace, I never quite felt like I got to know all of the characters as well as I wanted to. They were all likable enough, but I never became emotionally invested in any of them.
Again, GO SEE THE SHOW THIS WEEKEND and get connected to this theater company now. For if this first offering is any indication of what we can expect from the Stirfry Crew, they are not only going to be around for a while, but they will be providing the larger San Francisco performing arts community with a powerful new presence and voice. Well done.