David Rockwell's set design makes Falsettos a timeless and totally current musical you will want to see!
Nancy & I saw Falsettos last evening, and we were surprised by what an enjoyable, successful piece of theater it was--despite the fact that it has received outstanding reviews, for example Charles Isherwood's rave review, " 'Falsettos,' a Perfect Musical, an Imperfect Family," in the New York Times on 27 October:

There's hardly a moment in the exhilarating, devastating revival of the musical "Falsettos" that doesn't approach, or even achieve, perfection. This singular show, about an unorthodox family grappling with the complexities of, well, just being a family - unorthodox or otherwise - has been restored to life, some 25 years after it was first produced, with such vitality that it feels as fresh and startling as it did back in 1992.

(If you want to read more about the plot, check out that review; at the end of this email, as I'm not going to recount it.)

This Lincoln Center Theater revival of the 1992 musical Falsettos still is being done with a book by James Lapine and William Finn, and with music and lyrics by William Finn, as in the 1992 version. (Originally it consisted of two separate one-act plays,  March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland.)  As in 1992, this new version was directed by James Lapine.

I believe the reason why this actually highly dated play seems in this production to have such vitality and to be so timeless is the incredibly wonderful, creative set design by our friend, David Rockwell (winner of the Tony for set design last year for his totally different--albeit equally wonderful--set for She Loves Me).  The main component of David's set is a cube we see in the center of the empty stage at the beginning of the musical.  As the action moves forward, the actors progressively take the initial cube apart, removing the bluish-gray, variously shaped block-forms from the cube, and these forms become all of the furniture and other objects used in the play--the chairs, tables, beds, walls, doorways--as well as symbolic elements.   During the second act, the pieces begin to disappear, until in the emotionally-charged penultimate scene they are replaced by hospital room furniture.  Only thereafter do they then reappear as the reassembled cube at the very end.  This conceptual use of form creates an abstract dimension to the feeling of the musical, creating a kind of timeless present-ness that gives the play a sense of belonging to the current moment--whatever that moment may be.  David Rockwell has also created an emotionally rich backdrop for the action, in the ever-changing stylized New York skyline, which morphs in color and intensity, but which also compresses and expands vertically, evoking different moods for each and every moment in the play.  (Lighting designer Jeff Croiter deserves tremendous credit for the effective way the lighting interacts with David's forms.)  As Isherwood put it in the Times review:

David Rockwell's set resembles a child's building blocks, which are manipulated by the actors. Placed against a shifting Manhattan skyscape, it's an ingenious illustration of what we are watching: people laboring to arrange a comfortable life for themselves and their loved ones, and continually having to readjust it.

All the main characters are great:  Christian Borle, Andrew Rannels, Brandon Uranowitz, Stephanie Block, and especially Anthony Rosenthal, who plays the 12-13 year old Jason; and Tracie Thom and Betsy Wolfe are fine as the two supporting second-act characters (the Lesbians next-door).

The entire play is sung, operetta-style; and while this is a format that is not easy for me, in Falsettos it actually works.  And while I am not wild about Bill Finn's music, his lyrics are often extremely witty and clever.  And the storyline, while verging on the melodramatic at moments, is actually quite moving.  As Isherwood concludes,

"Love is blind," the characters sing early on. "Love can tell a million stories. Love's unkind. Spiteful in a million ways." By the conclusion of this exceptional production, we feel the dizzying sense of having heard a bounty of such stories, and yet they have been so tightly knit together that they feel like one uninterrupted song, a song that I would be happy to listen to forever.

 

Falsettos is a play well-worth your seeing:

 

Walter Kerr Theatre
219 W. 48th St.
212-760-8361
--
"As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.
               -Justice William O. Douglas
 
The Isherwood  review from the NY Times:

There's hardly a moment in the exhilarating, devastating revival of the musical "Falsettos" that doesn't approach, or even achieve, perfection. This singular show, about an unorthodox family grappling with the complexities of, well, just being a family - unorthodox or otherwise - has been restored to life, some 25 years after it was first produced, with such vitality that it feels as fresh and startling as it did back in 1992.
 
The achievement seems almost miraculous, because in the intervening years, America has gone through cultural changes that might, in theory, have made the show, with its sweet-and-sour score by William Finn, and its economical book by Mr. Finn and James Lapine, seem a relic
.
The musical, which opened on Thursday at the Walter Kerr Theater in a Lincoln Center Theater production, once again directed by Mr. Lapine - whose work is so sharp it's as if he were seeing the show with a new pair of eyes - follows the topsy-turvy fortunes of a family of four, which eventually grows to five and maybe more.
 
At its center is the confused heart of Marvin (Christian Borle), a gay man in 1979 who introduces us in an early sequence to his lover, Whizzer (Andrew Rannells), and his ex-wife, Trina (Stephanie J. Block), along with Marvin and Trina's precociously smart son, the 10-year-old Jason (Anthony Rosenthal). Although no one seems wholly at ease - rarely does anyone in this hilariously neurosis-infused musical - they have continued to maintain an equilibrium, to the point of still sharing meals together.
 
But even in the early scenes, we see fractures. Marvin is possessive, critical, irked by the younger, boyishly handsome Whizzer's lack of enthusiasm for monogamy. Mr. Borle, known for his Tony-winning comic performances in "Something Rotten!" and "Peter and the Starcatcher," shines here as he has never before, in a role that lets him stretch beyond his trademark loopy humor. In his piercing blue eyes and his versatile voice, we can see and hear the full panoply of Marvin's emotions: irritation and insecurity, adoration and ambivalence, and, yes, a large stock of neuroses.
 
In Mr. Finn's witty lyrics, which for much of the show come flying at us in great bursts of chattering counterpoint, Marvin and the other principal characters point fingers at one another, trying to settle on the source of their dissatisfaction. (Marvin and Whizzer can't even agree on how long they've been together: Nine months? Or 10?)
 
Marvin is too demanding and uptight, thinks Whizzer - and Trina. Marvin doesn't think he's necessarily the problem, and urges Trina to see his longtime psychiatrist, Mendel (a warmly funny and convincingly neurotic Brandon Uranowitz), who complicates matters by becoming almost instantly smitten with her.
 
Young Jason, played with an air of exasperated smarts by a thoroughly wonderful Mr. Rosenthal, sees his father as "morbid and dissatisfied" (with reason), and his emotional allegiance is mainly to his mother, at first. Trying to break through his isolation (Jason likes more than anything else to play chess alone), Marvin and Trina urge Jason to, yes, start seeing Mendel, too. He agrees to it, but only after consulting with Whizzer.
 
"Falsettos" - which began life as two one-acts, "March of the Falsettos" and "Falsettoland" - is a hard show to stop, so antic and frantic are the characters as they ricochet through their complicated lives. But Ms. Block, better here than ever, just about does it in "I'm Breaking Down," a raging aria of angst that becomes a virtual nervous collapse in song, and a deliriously funny-sad high point.
 
David Rockwell's set resembles a child's building blocks, which are manipulated by the actors. Placed against a shifting Manhattan skyscape, it's an ingenious illustration of what we are watching: people laboring to arrange a comfortable life for themselves and their loved ones, and continually having to readjust it.
 
The tone of "Falsettos" markedly changes in the second act, which takes place in 1981. By this time, Trina and Mendel have married, and Marvin and Whizzer have broken up. I had seen the original production on tour, but still felt the wind knocked out of me when the nigh-inevitable occurs: Whizzer comes down with a mysterious illness, and soon finds himself in the hospital. (Presumably, I don't need to tell you what the illness is.)
 
Here, we get to see new aspects of Mr. Rannells's gifts. He was one of the peppy Mormon missionaries in "The Book of Mormon," and with his gleaming good looks, fits neatly into the role of the cute but shallow Whizzer. But as the character grows weaker, Mr. Rannells introduces a touching sense of dignified resignation, while keeping Whizzer's warmth and humor.
 
By now, despite their difficulties, Whizzer and Marvin have reunited, and the family has expanded to virtually include Dr. Charlotte (a touching Tracie Thoms), who puzzles over Whizzer's decline, and her lover, the caterer Cordelia (a sweetly daffy Betsy Wolfe), who are folded into the embrace of the makeshift family we have seen assembling.
 
"Falsettos" is Mr. Finn's greatest achievement to date (although I have great affection for "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"). The show is basically sung through, although the rhythms and colors of the music vary, as does the flavor of the lyrics, now acrid, now heartfelt. Among his distinguishing talents, perhaps the greatest is his ability to turn complicated but natural conversation and intricate interior thought into song (a talents he shares, of course, with Stephen Sondheim). The seams between words and music never show.
 
Much has changed since Mr. Finn and Mr. Lapine created "Falsettos." Today it has become widely accepted that, to use a cliché only because it is a perfect fit, American families come in all shapes and sizes. "Falsettos" was eerily prescient in its presentation of one such family, well before it became almost - normal. ("What is normal?" Jason asks early on, in a telling moment.) The plague of AIDS no longer claims lives in the numbers it did in the 1980s (although it still takes far too many). And definitions of masculinity, a sharp undercurrent in the show, have expanded considerably.
 
But "Falsettos" never feels like a singing time capsule. Its fundamental subject is that mysterious, maddening, uplifting, life-complicating emotion we refer to as love, which hasn't changed in 25 years - or, for that matter, many more than that.
 
"Love is blind," the characters sing early on. "Love can tell a million stories. Love's unkind. Spiteful in a million ways." By the conclusion of this exceptional production, we feel the dizzying sense of having heard a bounty of such stories, and yet they have been so tightly knit together that they feel like one uninterrupted song, a song that I would be happy to listen to forever.