A play about the crises of a complicated, modern-day Jewish family is making its way to Pittsburgh.
Front Porch Theatricals, a Pittsburgh-based theater company, announced the first show of its 2023 season: “Falsettos,” the second musical from William Finn and James Lapine. The show is directed by Rob James, and Deana Muro is back as music director with Ashley Harmon as choreographer.
“Hilarious, heartbreaking and utterly unique, ‘Falsettos’ is a contemporary, groundbreaking, Tony-award winning musical,” producer Nancy Zionts said in a prepared statement. “‘Falsettos’ is about family, relationships, bar mitzvahs and baseball, and spans from the early ’80s through the early days of the AIDS crisis.”
“Following in the footsteps of other Front Porch Theatricals musicals,” she added, “this show will make you laugh and maybe cry as it takes a poignant look at the infinite possibilities that make up a modern family.”
Jenna Kantor, who moved from New York City to Pittsburgh’s Bon Air neighborhood two years ago, said playing Trina in “Falsettos” is “like a dream role.” This is her Pittsburgh stage debut.
“I’m basically a Jewish woman trying to hold it together,” laughed Kantor, who is Jewish. “Every single part is incredible. And the songs are beautifully written.”
Kantor works by day in physical therapy for performers and recently returned to the theater for a production of “Mama Mia!” outside Pittsburgh. She’s excited about “Falsettos.”
“Front Porch Theatricals is such a wonderfully run theater, and it’s also a friendly community,” she said. “Everybody wants everybody else to do well — it’s a really ideal performing situation to be in.”
“At its heart, ‘Falsettos’ is about family and love — my character, Marvin, wants it all!” said Chad Elder of Point Breeze, who first starred in a Front Porch Theatrical production during his turn in “Grey Gardens” in 2018.
“[Marvin] wants to preserve his perfect nuclear family with his wife and son,” Elder added. “But he’s coming to terms with being gay and wants the perfect relationship with his new lover, too. It’s a lot to ask of the people in his life, which sets off an emotional roller coaster that is hilarious, heartfelt, heartbreaking.”
“Falsettos” premiered on Broadway in 1992 and was nominated for seven Tony Awards, winning for Best Book and Best Original Score. The musical was revived on Broadway in 2016 starring Mt. Lebanon native Christian Borle and Andrew Rannells.
James, the director, has directed shows for Stage 62 in Carnegie and worked in multiple roles for Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera for roughly 30 years. This is his first time directing a Front Porch Theatrical production.
“[The cast] is working their butts off,” said James, who grew up and lives in Crafton. “I know it sounds hokey, but what a privilege it’s been — I can’t think of a better job.”
James said the play “is not rooted in being Jewish. I think it’s a story about a Jewish family. That’s an important distinction.”
James is not Jewish, but he says the play seems to get the details right. For example, he joked, the play’s first number centers around four Jews kvetching.
“You know what kind of night you’re in for,” he laughed.
“Falsettos” will be staged on May 19–21 and 24–28 at The New Hazlett Theater on Pittsburgh’s North Side. PJC
Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.