Angels in America vs. Falsettos

While I was reading Angels in America, I was struck by how similar it is to one of my favorite Broadway musicals. The musical being Falsettos which showcases a man named Marvin who leaves his wife and child in order to pursue a relationship with another man named Whizzer who has AIDS. Initially I found similarities between the two because of the subject matter, but the more I thought about it, the more similarities I found. Falsettos, like Angels in America mixes humor and camp with heavy topics like the AIDS epidemic, death, and religion.

To understand the humor this show blends within the discussion of heavy topics, look no further than the first song which is titled “Four Jews in a Room Bitching.” This opens the show in a very light way, but it also portrays to the audience that the rest of the show will have many arguments and heavy topics. While many of the songs in the musical are filled with humor and camp, the one song that sticks out to me the most is “March of the Falsettos.” In it, we see Marvin, Whizzer, Marvin’s psychiatrist Mendel, and Marvin’s son Jason dressed in bright white and neon orange outfits that stand out in the blacklight above.Falsettos: What Does It Mean? | Live From Lincoln Center | THIRTEEN - New  York Public MediaThe four males start singing in a shrill falsetto while doing a really silly dance routine, showing the overtop hilarity of the musical. The scene is sandwiched between two meaningful solos by Trina, Marvin’s ex-wife in which she reveals her insecurities about life before ultimately deciding to stand up for herself and take what she deserves. She reminds me a lot of Harper who initially feels like the world is ending when her husband wants to leave her before deciding that she doesn’t need a man to get what she wants out of life.

One of the other topics portrayed in both productions is the AIDS crisis and in Falsettos we see Whizzer, like Roy and Prior, struggle with illness while Marvin, like Louis, struggles with whether or not to stay with his dying lover.  Throughout the show, Marvin makes many mistakes, much like Louis and Whizzer doesn’t want to forgive him for the pain he caused him. However, unlike Prior, Whizzer does end up getting back with Marvin.

In my mind, the most important similarity between the two productions is how they both directly address the audience and call them to action in the fight against AIDS. Similar to Prior’s final monologue in Angles in America, Mendel, in the final scene of Falsettos breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience singing, “Homosexuals, women with children, short insomniacs, we’re a teeny tiny band. Lovers come and lovers go. Lovers live and die fortissimo. This is where we take a stand. Welcome to Falsettoland.” By ending with those words, he is calling all Americans, especially the gay community to stand up and fight, to wake up and realize that this is the country we live in and we must protect each other.


3 thoughts on “Angels in America vs. Falsettos”

  1. I love the way you brought these two productions together! Listening to Falsettos was one of my first encounters with a story that placed the AIDS epidemic at its forefront. I originally wanted to write my blog post on the comparisons between the two but wasn’t sure where to start. Trina and Harper definitely mirror each other in a lot of ways, and both the musical and this play contain important elements of Jewish culture that speak to each other. The internal and external impact of religious beliefs on those who contracted AIDS during the 70s/80s is important to see addressed in media.

  2. Hello! I really enjoyed how you compared Angels in America and Falsettos and how they cover the AIDs epidemic. While I haven’t seen or listened to Falsettos, I’ve heard about it. Theatre seems to be a safe place to discuss/explore LGBTQ issues, in this case, AIDs, perhaps because of theatre’s relationship with the community. Another show that also covers the AIDs epidemic to put in conversation would be Rent. While it is somewhat different, it also looks at how AIDs affected the gay community. It also brought into the conversation the topic of trans individuals and AIDs (like we saw in the Transgender History reading). All three of the shows take a stand against AIDs and putting the importance of it in the mind of the audience.

  3. This is such a neat comparison. I’ve also seen Falsettos, and I never even thought about how many similarities there are between the two productions. Interestingly, one of the main differences between the two is that the characters who are sick from AIDS, Prior and Whizzer, have different endings. Prior survives till the end of the play, but Whizzer dies.

    I don’t know if this is true, but even though both productions deal with very tough subjects, it almost seems as though it makes more sense that the musical ends on a more sad note (no pun intended) because there is, at least in my opinion, more humor throughout it. For the play, it is very heavy throughout and has slightly less humor, in my opinion, so it is somewhat more comforting for Prior to survive. Either way, I think both have powerful messages at the end that call the audience to take a stand against AIDS.

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