University of Alabama students perform musical ‘Falsettos’

By Matthew Speakman Special to The Tuscaloosa News

The term falsetto is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as an artificially produced singing voice
that overlaps and extends above the modal register. It’s used by singers to break out and hit vastly different,
higher notes, singers such as Smokey Robinson, Prince, Frankie Valli, Jeff Buckley, and Phillip Bailey of
Earth, Wind & Fire.

The musical “Falsettos,” written by William Finn, revolves around a group of people who try to follow
narrow paths, but end up breaking out of the norm.

“All of us try so hard to fit in and be normal, but we are all some aberration of humanity or some aberration
of ourselves,” said Raines Carr, a University of Alabama master of fine arts directing student, who’s
directing this week’s production of “Falsettos.”

“These people (the characters) are trying so hard to fit the mold of a good person or have a good life and a
good family that they become self-involved.”

“Falsettos” premiered in 1992 on Broadway, combining two one-act musicals that played off-Broadway.
Recently, it was revived for another Broadway run. It tells the story of Marvin, his gay lover Whizzer Brown,
his ex-wife Trina, their psychiatrist, son and lesbian neighbors. When Marvin decides to leave Trina for
Whizzer, she ends up forming a relationship with their psychiatrist. Peeking in the lives of a 1970s family, it
shows some of the infinity of ways relationships can play out.

“We create a family any way that we can,” Carr said. “We are floating on a giant rock in space, we have to
cling to each other. If our blood relatives can’t do that, then whoever is willing to love us honestly can. That
is what an audience member needs to take away.”

Carr said performing this play at a college level is important. Just as the show tackles escaping the norm
and finding yourself, so are most students figuring out the way the world works, being on their own for the
first time.

“You try so hard in your 20s to be that person that you always want to be,” Carr said. “You end up hurting
people, lying, stealing and cheating, but also doing some wonderful deeds as well, in trying to find yourself.
It is a hard thing. I think it is so exciting for people of this age to play these roles, because they are going
through that exact same thing.”

Actors in UA’s “Falsettos” said these roles have helped them learn a lot about themselves.
Gabbard, who plays Marvin, believes it’s helped him see life differently.
“I can step back (and take) a closer look at my life, because of how messed up this character is, and how
much he messes up and immediately says he’s sorry,” Gabbard said. “I’ve caught myself doing that so much,
so it’s one of those things where I’ve been able to look at it and sort of be like, ‘I don’t want to be like that, so
I am not going to be like that.’ ”

Megan Kelly, a junior playing Trina, says as a high-stress person, it’s hard for her to let things go. As she
immersed herself in the role, she learned to calm herself down just as Trina does.
“Instead of letting things roll off of my back, I can take them very personally sometimes,” she said. “This has
been a really good opportunity to show me that everything will be all right. Things are going to work out the
way they work out, and you are going to get through them.”

It’s almost all sung, with few spoken lines. Actors have trained their singing voices to last the two and a halfhour
run time. Kelly said getting her voice to last has been difficult, but she’s glad she did the show.
“The idea of singing the entire time throughout a musical is intimidating and challenging,” she said. “It’s
been an incredible experience and a cool chance to push myself.”