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‘Falsettos’: Musical with Jewish themes coming in September

The following article was written by Adam Moscoe, who plays Mendel in September's production of Falsettos. The article was published in the print edition of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, and reproduced here. The entire issue can be found here, and the relevant article is on page 19.


Deep into rehearsals to play Mendel, the psychiatrist-turned-stepdad, in “Falsettos,” a landmark musical and perhaps the only one with a bar mitzvah boy as hero, I am living my musical theatre dream!

I am thrilled that the Orpheus Musical Theatre Society is presenting this ambitious show, for the first time in Ottawa, September 4 to 7, at the Gladstone Theatre, and I hope you will agree it is as beautiful as it is timely. As the New York Times described the recent hit Broadway revival, it’s a perfect musical, starring an imperfect family.

“Falsettos” is William Finn’s Tony Award-winning masterpiece, a sung through marathon where love tells a million stories, at a time when “something bad is happening.” That something is the early days of the AIDS crisis in the gay community.

It is 1979 in New York City. Marvin, our protagonist, reveals he has left his wife, Trina, for a man, Whizzer, and is trying to keep his “tight-knit family” afloat. His 10-year-old son, Jason, anxiously ponders over whether being gay is a hereditary trait. Trina, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, starts seeing Marvin’s psychiatrist, Mendel, who takes great interest in his new patient – “I think she’s very insecure, but so am I” – and the two end up married.

Meanwhile, Jason starts developing a bond with Whizzer, the only adult he will fully trust. Throughout Act I, the family gets closer and closer to capsizing, until Marvin has a heart-to-heart with his son and reaffirms his dedication as a father.

In Act II, Jason’s imminent bar mitzvah is the focal point for the drama, although the planning process becomes obsessive and further flares the tensions between Marvin and Trina. Jason can’t understand “what have I done that they’d ruin my bar mitzvah” with all the adults’ bickering. He is also growing up, listing off the girls in his class and wondering which ones to invite to the big day, and whether they would laugh at his Hebrew. (Cooper Dunn, who plays Jason, has been working hard on his pronunciation!)

As everyone gathers to cheer on Jason at a baseball game – “We’re watching Jewish boys/Who cannot play baseball/Play baseball” – Whizzer returns to the scene and gets back together with Marvin. But something isn’t right. Whizzer develops a mysterious illness, and once it worsens, Jason is beside himself, nearly cancelling the bar mitzvah, until he has an epiphany and insists the bar mitzvah be held in Whizzer’s hospital room. “Falsettos” is at its most touching during these final scenes, culminating in a moving love duet, “What would I do/If I had not loved you?”

Much-needed comic relief is provided by the next-door neighbours, including Cordelia, an ambitious kosher caterer, played by well-known Ottawa actor, Andréa Black. “Falsettos” is an epic undertaking, and the Orpheus Musical Theatre Society is to be applauded for embracing the challenge and diving into Jewish theatrical styles and humour. My fellow actors and I are sinking our teeth into the quick-witted ensembles and heart-wrenching ballads. We very much hope you will join us.

“Falsettos” runs September 4 to 7 at the Gladstone Theatre.

Visit for more information or tickets.

Image of the author, Adam Moscoe


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