Richard and I saw *Falsettos* on Broadway on 1/3. It's a 1992 musical by William Finn - - actually a combination of two musicals, *March of the Falsettos* from 1981 with *Falsettoland* from 1990. I saw *Falsettos* in Madison sometime in the 90s and really loved it, and was excited to see it again.
How do you know when something is a period piece, or if it's just plain dated? I think the difference is the quality of the work: the ghost of Sondheim's *Company* hovers over *Falsettos,* and it's a useful comparison. *Company* sounds like the 70s, but the songs are so strong and the music is so good, it transcends the 70s. A few songs in *Falsettos* break through and become timeless, but generally it has both feet deep in the mud of the 80s. Too many power ballads! There's a song for the central gay couple late in the show, it had me shaking my head.
ME: Two men hollering at each other - - that's not what I call love.
RICHARD: But we holler at each other. Is that not love?
ME: That's different.
I know that it was important for a Broadway musical to have two gay men as the central couple, and to address AIDS, but the way these elements are handled also come across as dated. Karen Miller taught me a word years ago, a word I use at least once a month, it's such a delightful word and so useful. The word is "mawkish." Merriam-Webster online defines it as 1. having an insipid often unpleasant taste and 2. sickly or puerilely sentimental. *Falsettos* gets a strong reading on the Mawk-o-Meter.
One song made the whole show worth seeing, "I'm Breaking Down," the mother's show-stopping number in the first act. Stephanie J. Block went at it full force, wringing out all the frustration, humor, and bile. The show was being filmed for PBS the night we saw it - - I'm going to DVR it, watch that one number, and delete the rest.