Sorry if you missed it.
I’m talking about the feisty midtown theater’s 40th birthday bash, which featured a reprise of their 1991 hit FALSETTOLAND. Broadway regular Don Richards returned to the Unicorn stage (actually, he and the cast were in the area where the audience usually sits; we were on stage). Together with a crackerjack company under artistic director Cynthia Levin‘s skillful hand, the concert reading of this groundbreaking musical left no dry eye in the house.
FALSETTOLAND takes us back to pre-AIDS New York City.
There’s a disease spreading among handsome young men and nobody knows why. Marvin (the wonderful Richards) has left wife Trina (Lauren Braton, luminous as usual) and son Jason for one of those handsome young men, Whizzer. Marvin’s timing is, shall we say, problematic– he decides to come out just in time for Jason’s bar mitzvah.
Shea Coffman, who doubles as the Unicorn’s marketing director, was a revelation as Whizzer– the aforementioned handsome, plus self-assured, courageous, tender and with a lovely voice. That and he does their advertising– such a deal!
Jake Bartley had a nice turn as 12 year old Jason, ramping up the tension between the parties as he struggles with whether to have his bar mitzvah with or without the hospitalized Whizzer.
Tim Noland lightened things up as Mendel, Trina’s new man/ Marvin’s old psychiatrist. Jessalyn Kincaid and Missy Koonce played the couple next door with aplomb– Kincaid’s kosher caterer a bundle of insecurities while Missy nailed it as the internist confronted with a strange new disease. You want an actress to play spikey lesbian?— Missy’s your gal (I’d love to see her don the stethoscope and white coat again in a revival of Larry Kramer’s NORMAL HEART).
Instead of the “teeny, tiny band” FALSETTOLAND’s lyric calls for, piano legend Kent Barnhart— who played the original Unicorn production with Don– squeezed every poignant and bombastic note from Bill Finn‘s best score. Fans of Kent’s Quality Hill Playhouse shows– and there are thousands of them– don’t get to see him work so seamlessly with a large ensemble in a through-sung musical very often. That alone was worth the price of admission.
And speaking of the price of admission, the Unicorn announced a killer deal on probably the best season they’ve ever mounted.
For their 40th, Cynthia corralled five of last year’s biggest New York hits, including Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner CLYBOURNE PARK, SEMINAR by TV’s “Smash” creator Theresa Rebeck, the brilliant Broadway drama OTHER DESERT CITIES and the off-Broadway hit MEET VERA STARK. The Unicorn season opens with one of the sexiest shows you’re ever going to see on a Kansas City stage, Broadway sizzler VENUS IN FUR. Vanessa Severo in a bustier and thigh high leather boots should be enough to sell out the friggin season.
Happy 40th, Unicorn and to artistic director Ms Levin – you go, girl, for 40 more.