Last week, I wrote about the performance of a Tony Award-winning gay-themed musical by students at Massachusetts’ Concord-Carlisle Regional High School. Anti-LGBT group MassResistance was up in arms about a high school producing a “depraved homosexual musical” and was trying to use director Peter Atlas’ supposed friendship with Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education Kevin Jennings to smear Jennings.

What would happen, I wondered, at the actual performances? Protests? Catcalls? Snickers from fellow students in the audience?

The reality was much happier. Sarah S. Brannen, the author and illustrator of gay-inclusive children’s book Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, attended the show on Saturday and was kind enough to submit this guest post about it.

December 13, 2009

Falsettos in Concord

I went to see Falsettos at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School on Saturday night. According to the Boston Globe, it was the first-ever production of the musical by a public high school. A production of The Laramie Project by the Acton-Boxborough Regional High School two years ago met with pickets and protests, so I was delighted to see nothing outside the school but audience members hurrying through the cold.

Falsettos combines two one-act plays by William Finn and James Lapine: March of the Falsettos and, after an intermission, Falsettoland. The musical is through-composed, with no spoken dialogue other than an occasional line, and calls for just five actors in the first act with two more added in the second. The stellar high-school cast mastered the slightly dissonant jazzy harmonies and complex rhythmic interplay with apparent ease and only one line fumble in the entire show.

Although the lead role is ostensibly Marvin, who leaves his wife for a man before the musical begins, the central character is really his twelve-year-old son Jason, played in Concord by sophomore Hannah Kilcoyne. She was a tiny adolescent angsty joy to watch, and a big-voiced thrill to hear. I’m going to remember her name and look for her on Broadway a decade or so from now.

Zander Ansara was a strong Marvin, with Charlie Abend his hunky and boyish lover Whizzer. They were convincing as they portrayed all the multiple phases of their relationship and completely committed to the roles; it was fairly wonderful to sit in a public high school and watch two boys in bed together, one sleeping, the other singing him a love song, with nary a snicker from the audience. In fact, the song was received with rapturous applause.

Kailey Prior, as Marvin’s ex-wife Trina, proved a professional and convincing actress with a small but pretty voice. The lesbian couple in Act II have smaller roles but Jessica Stout has a stunningly beautiful voice and Celeste Hall, also a fine singer, was comically hilarious.

Finally, Evan Sibley as Mendel, the psychiatrist who marries Trina, had the audience eating out of his hand with his comedic timing, rubber face and strong singing.

Complex ensemble numbers like “The Baseball Game” and “Days Like This” were tight and delightful and most of the ballads were spell-binding. I have been to many, many worse professional productions. The small band played brilliantly, and Peter Atlas, the director and producer, is clearly great at his job as well as at ground-breaking programming.

A full house gave the three-hour musical their rapt attention and leapt to their feet, cheering, at the end.

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