By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.
As Broadway’s comeback season winds down, the residual signs of Covid-19 reminds audiences and those who earn their living making the magic of theatre, that the pandemic which has taken nearly 1 million American lives is still with us.
In 1992 the AIDS pandemic had taken the lives of 102,147 Americans; it ravaged the gay community and decimated the ranks of theatre professionals across the country. And thirty years ago today, a new musical opened on Broadway that put the story of our love, our families, and our strength front and center for all the world to see.
James Lapine and William Finn’s Falsettos begins in 1979 with “March of the Falsettos;” and then Act II, three years later with “Falsettoland.” Following Marvin, his ex-wife Trina, son Jason, their psychiatrist Mendel, Marvin’s gay lover Whizzer, and “the lesbians from next-door,” they struggle to redefine their modern family in the early days of AIDS.
While some found the subject and production shocking, especially two men naked in bed as one sings a self-reflective love song while his lover sleeps, that wasn’t the most shocking thing about Falsettos.
What More Can I Say? from the 2017 National Tour
From firsthand experience, I can honestly say the most shocking thing about the Falsettos in 1994 was seeing how utterly “normal” LGBT families were. Whether biological, chosen and/or broken, it showed they were like any other family — messed up, can’t stop hurting the ones who love us, parents are crazy, and no one said choosing love was easy.
“Unlikely Lovers” from the original Broadway production.
Falsettos became a landmark musical and was nominated for seven Tony Awards in 1992, of which it won Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. The 2016 Lincoln Center revival was nominated for five Tonys, was captured live in performance, and aired on PBS twenty-five years after the original production.
We now live in a time when books by and about LGBT+ people are being banned by states in a country where freedom of speech in guaranteed in the Constitution. Laws are being passed prohibiting discussions in schools about sexuality, gender, or families that are not “traditional.” Are these New Right lawmakers afraid that the next generations will learn “love can tell a million stories?”
A Big Broadway thank you to Carolee Carmello aka Trina for remind us about Falsetto’s 30th anniversary with her fabulous Instagram post!
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