Umass Theatre Guild takes the stage with ‘Falsettos’

Jealousy and competition in the age of a sexual revolution


Ana Pietrewicz / Daily Collegian

By AJ Houk, Collegian Contributor

The UMass Theatre Guild returned to the musical stage with “Falsettos,” which opened at the Student Union Blackbox Theatre on Dec. 2. The Guild hasn’t skipped a beat since returning from a COVID-19 hiatus.

The musical tells the story of Marvin, a man who leaves his wife and son in the late 1970s to pursue his love of another man, Whizzer. The small cast of seven students is an advantage, allowing each character to play a full role.

The atmosphere in the theatre was welcoming. Audience members’ laughing, crying and cheering alone felt like a character of its own. It’s difficult to encourage audience participation during live performances, as you never know who’s been dragged there by a friend. Everyone in the “Falsettos” audience seemed like they genuinely wanted to be there, and that isn’t easy to do.

At times, the musical’s writing was a distraction. It often shoved the same joke down your throat over and over, losing its charm. Every joke felt like another way of saying, “We are Jewish and we are gay,” which came across as a lack of effort on the writers’ part. I can’t fault the Guild for this, though. The group didn’t write the show, and the delivery from the actors kept these jokes bearable on some level. It felt like the musical was stepping on its own feet, opting to stop short of fully exploring raw emotion for a quick joke or two.

The strongest part of any musical is its cast, and it was impossible to picture any of the “Falsettos” performers playing another role on stage. The chemistry between the actors and the way they fit their roles made for a realistic performance. Not only was the acting great, but the singing was arguably better. Performers delivered heartfelt ballads that had viewers around me in tears.

“Most of our cast, it is our first time in the Guild,” said operations and information management major Paige Lichty, who played Jason.

Cast and crew members developed a community during preparation for the show, which came across on stage.

“The family I’ve built within the cast is nothing like I’ve ever felt before,” theatre major Aracelli Sierra said.

The crew showed no sign of their limited resources. The costumes and stage, though not high budget, were clean and concise, showing exactly what needed to be seen without any clutter.

“I’m really proud of the finished result, especially considering our limited resources,” costume designer Maya Chari said.

In the musical, Whizzer passes away from AIDS, leaving Marvin without a wife or lover. Even though Marvin wishes he had more time with Whizzer, he’s thankful they got any time at all. His happiness for the times they had, rather than sadness for the times they didn’t, is a great lesson.

“Falsettos” completed its run at the Black Box Theatre on Dec. 4, completing the Guild’s fall 2021 season.

AJ Houk can be reached at [email protected]