Ask almost anyone you meet on the street if they have a subscription to a video streaming service; you’ll get very few replies “no.” Whether it’s Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+ or HBO Max, streaming has become the most popular way to view movies and TV shows. But what if you could stream theater productions from your own home, the same way you can stream The Office, or Grey’s Anatomy? Well it turns out that you can — with Broadway HD.
I hadn’t heard much about Broadway HD until about a year ago when a friend brought it up in conversation, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I got a subscription. The Broadway HD database isn’t organized in the most user friendly way, but after sifting through the website, I saw that their collection included everything from Shakespeare to selections from the SF Opera to many Broadway musicals and plays. I decided that the first production I would watch was Falsettos.
Opening at the John Golden theater in 1992 but revived in 2016, Falsettos follows the story of a Jewish man named Marvin (Christian Borle), his boyfriend Whizzer (Andrew Rannells), Marvin’s ex-wife Trina (Stephanie J. Block), and their ten-year-old son Jason (Anthony Rosenthal). After Trina finds out about Marvin and Whizzer’s relationship, Marvin, Jason, and Trina all end up seeing the same therapist, Mendel (Brandon Uranowitz), who immediately falls in love with Trina, and proposes to her — she says yes. Tensions rise between Marvin and Whizzer when Whizzer doesn’t conform to the expectations Marvin has for his new relationship. Eventually, Marvin’s efforts to force Whizzer into an inauthentic personality end up driving Whizzer away, and they break up. As the show continues after intermission, almost three years have passed, and Jason’s Bar Mitzvah day approaches. Marvin and Whizzer start dating again, and Mendel and Trina have been happily married for several years. But with concerns growing about the AIDS crisis, the family worries that everything might be changing again.
As someone who had never seen Falsettos before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, despite the slightly cheesy music and seemingly straightforward plotline, I was pleasantly surprised by the emotional depth of the show. Falsettos delves into a lot of complicated subjects, including a critique of society’s gender norms and ideas of masculinity. As Marvin navigates his first same-sex relationship, he struggles with the idea of being the “man” in the couple and wanting Whizzer to be the perfect stay-at-home boyfriend.
Marvin’s ex-wife Trina, on the other hand, struggles with the feeling that the men in her life get to live like care-free children while her challenges go unnoticed. In “Trina’s Song,” her lament, she sings “I’m tired of all the happy men who rule the world…/stupid, charming men/silly, childish jerks.” She suggests that, being the sole woman in the family, she is the only one who acts like an adult. An interesting theory about this plotline proposes that while Jason, Trina’s son, comes of age, Marvin, Whizzer, and Mendel have all grown up as well.
Although Falsettos may not be the most captivating show out there, its examination of an unorthodox family situation is one that you won’t find in many other mainstream productions — and it’s heart is definitely in the right place.