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Posts tagged ‘AIDS’

Wonderful, Important “Falsettos” is Back on Bway!

falsettos-1The most astonishing, important new musical on Broadway,  isn’t a new musical at all. It’s a revival of “Falsettos.” And in its execution and impact, it is absolutely overwhelming. In Act Two. In Act One, well, it left me wondering what all the fuss was about. It won Tonys back in its’ day,(1992) and the same Tony-winning team of composer William Finn and director James Lapine are both back, too. It’s cumulative effect however is devastating. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Mine among them. I could barely speak, either.

I didn’t know what was coming in Act Two, but most people know what it’s about. It is a damaged, damaging cry from the front-line of AIDS. And this revival of “Falsettos” is so fresh and new, especially in Act 2, as I’ve said, that it hits you like a ton of bricks as its’ horrible, inevitable denoument plays out.

And of course, it’s the character I loved the most, Whizzer, who gets sick and dies. He’s played by the admirable Andrew Rannells, who launched like a supernova as the lead in “Book of Mormon” six years or so ago. But here he surely has stepped into a kind of legend with this heart-wrenching portrayal, that does not once ask for self pity of any kind.

He’s starring opposite another Broadway legend of sorts of the most modern kind, the two time Tony winner, Christian Borle, who also astonishes and steps up his game big-time as Marvin.the bisexual love of Whizzer, who survives him. But suffers with his decline with an anguish and depth I didn’t think Borle was capable of. But he is and he makes you cry along with him as Whizzer slowly dies. One of their greatest love songs, “Two Unlikely Lovers.”

Their song ” What Would I Do(If I Hadn’t Met You)” is a love song that tops the show and makes you think and makes you cheer with pride, all at the same time. I wanted to give it a standing ovation, but was so emotionally devastated by its’ power and beauty, I could not stand. Just yell, hoarsely “Bravo”!

And if Mr.Rannell’s doesn’t get a Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his “Everybody’s Gotta Die Sometime” as he expires…well, I don’t know what to say.

This show deserves all the accolades that will get thrown at it. Stephanie J. Block can reap a Supporting Actress nomination surely for her turn as  Trina.the ex-wife of Borle and the mother of their understandably confused child, twelve-year-old Jason( a fantastic Anthony Rosenthal. )She’s never been better than when slamming out the solo “I’m Breaking Down.” As she tries to describe the confusion a straight woman feels who is left by her husband for another man.falsettos-3

This is a limited run only through Jan. 8 however. It’s at the Walter Kerr, where “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”  ran for two and a half glorious years. And now it’s got another smash musical there “Falsettos.” I hope it runs forever.



#Andrew Rannells

#Christian Borle


“Mothers & Sons” Best Play of the Year! Tyne Daly Best Actress!

The great Terrence McNally’s “Mothers and Sons” is the best new play of the year and the best new play on Broadway. And Tyne Daly as the mother is giving ANOTHER one of her greatest performances and in surely on her way to a Best Actress in a Play Tony nomination, if not a win. She won her first and only Tony(so far) for “Gypsy.”

“Mothers and Sons” is the kind of new play we should be seeing regularly on Broadway, but never do. It’s powerful. Immense, in its’ concentration on only four characters, or five, if you count the off-stage character of the late Andre Gerard, who is the real center of the play, and its’ uniting figure.

Andre is the handsome, sexy, 20-something young actor who dies twenty years before the play actually begins of AIDS.And by the way, we never see him. Except on a theater regional theater poster of him playing a rage-filled Hamlet.

It’s now two decades on and grief and time have brought his angry Republican mother, Katherine (Tyne Daly) and his surviving lover Cal (Frederick Weller) together in his semi-sumptuous Upper West Side apartment that overlooks Central Park.

She has come in her black, bulky fur coat and jewels to return her late son Andre’s diary to Cal. She can’t read it. And neither can he. She’s a dragon, breathing fire at Cal.

Yes, it’s another AIDS play. (I wrote one of the first one’s myself “Fever of Unknown Origin” in 1984, but that’s another story.) “Mothers and Sons” is set decidedly today. In a time when gay marriage is legal, and Cal has indeed moved on since the beloved Andre’s death to marry Will (Bobby Steggert) and they have a son Bud. This arrangement is seen as the highest point of gay achievement, and yes, perhaps it is. It certainly is a profound political and societal change.

Gay Marriage as well as AIDS is also front and center here because that too is what the play is addressing. Since the wonderful privilege of marriage for gay men was not even a serious thought or consideration when Andre died. But now it’s an inspiring fact of gay life.

And Bobby Steggert’s heart-warming, handsome young Wil can’t even imagine a time when it wasn’t this way. The rest of us all do. Wil is the younger generation who has missed the plague years, where literally someone I knew was dropping dead every day. It was like a war zone. It was a holocaust. It was ghastly. It was horrible beyond belief. Nearly everyone I knew died.

Frederick Weller’s Cal has lived through all of that era and nursed Andre through the horrible final stages of that illness that changed all our lives forever.

Weller has never been better and he has the daunting task of standing up to Tyne Daly’s formidable, homophobic monster of a mother. And he does.

Daly is a theatrical miracle in a career-topping performance. I saw her as Momma Rose in “Gypsy.” She was great. I saw her as Maria Callas in “Master Class” She was astonishing. And now her Katharine Gerard is an unforgettable portrait of a right-wing, Texas Republican mother who has all her anger and all her self-righteous conservative prejudices and confusion intact. And is still mourning the loss of her only son.

A seemingly impregnable, immovable slab of Mount Rushmore granite at the start of the play, she removes her black widow mink, to reveal a bright red dress that symbolizes her slow melt. And melt she inevitably does, and it is to Tyne Daly’s unending credit that she makes us like and UNDERSTAND this hostile harridan’s point of view.

And credit too to the great playwright McNally, who has always been one of my favorite American writers. He strips Katharine down to the bone as he has her reveal layer by layer, monologue by searing monologue, the depths of this woman’s despair and loneliness and sense of abandonment. Her husband, whom she didn’t love, has passed away, too, two weeks ago. And though she couldn’t stand him, his passing has sent her reeling into Cal’s CPW apartment to try to find….something….Something she doesn’t even understand she’s looking for.

And we find it with her, and what a journey it is! I can’t stop praising this great, new play and recommend it to one and all everywhere. It’s a great, great theatrical triumph.

Bravo and definitely BRAVA!

The New Year Begins. Barnes & Noble ends…

Well,2010 is now as dead as Marley’s Ghost. The weather in New York got into the balmy 40’s. Almost 50. A million people came to Times Square to watch that stupid ball drop. WHY?

I never got that.

It’s usually freezing although this year it wasn’t. It just seems the stupidest of rituals to me. A ball? Dropping? OK, it’s lit up, but you’re crammed in there with hundreds of thousands of other people and YOU CAN’T GET OUT!

Also, there’s nowhere that I can discern that you can use a bathroom. And you have to stand there for something like six-plus hours. It just seems idiotic and extremely uncomfortable to me.

But it’s free. And I think that’s the attraction, really. And the press covers it. And you might end up on television. A face in the crowd.

It’s idiotic. I went once, many years ago and didn’t even get close to the actual Times Square area. And the crowds even on 8th Avenue were, of course, all drunk. And in person, scary.

I guess I have to admit I watch it at home on TV. But seeing Dick Clark this year a palpable stroke victim, trying to enunciate, and not really succeeding. And Ryan Seacrest jumping up and down…As if we didn’t see enough of him on a daily basis on TV ANYway…

I remember Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians on TV playing “Auld Lang Syne” from the Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria. Now THAT seemed like a place I’d want to be on New Year’s Eve….but Guy Lombardo is no more…

The saddest moment, unexpectedly for me, was going to the lovely Barnes & Noble book store on W. 66th, right near Lincoln Center, and finding out that, yes, it’s actually closing…

I had heard something about it, vaguely rushing by on some evening news program, I guess, but I thought I had mis-heard it.

But there, a forlorn, print-out piece of paper, scotch-taped on the door, confirmed the unbelievable news, that, yes, after Jan.2, that particular branch of Barnes and Noble would be forever gone.

I used to live up in that area with the late David Summers, who died of AIDs, nearly a quarter of a century ago…and that area always seems like “David’s area” to me. W.68th, between Columbus and the Park. Barnes and Noble wasn’t even there then. Back in the ’70s….

I thought for a bit when I went there a few nights ago that it was doubly sad because David and I had spent so many happy hours there, but no.

He had already moved on to Manhattan Plaza, when it just opened, where he eventually died…

And now that particular branch of Barnes and Noble which was four stories of books and a generally cheery place is now going to be gone forever…and replaced by…what?

I shudder to think…but the essence of life is change…

And that is certainly the essence of New York. Constant change. There was a blizzard. Then there wasn’t. Then the temperature went up. Then it’s New Year’s Eve. Then it’s not.

And now we’re in the SECOND decade of the 21st Century…

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