Over the last few years, director Tyran Parke has worked his magic on some of Australia’s most exciting new productions with a delicate, intricate and passionate touch. One of the busiest and in-demand directors in the country, Parke has weaved his magic on stages across the country, telling stories in the form of Sondheim musicals, Monterverdi operas, new Australian works and Broadway classics with veterans and students alike.
Parke’s latest project is a timely and extremely exciting production of William Finn and James Lapine’s Tony Award winning musical Falsettos, which is set to play a (very) limited season next year as part of the Midsumma Festival. Presented by burgeoning independent theatre company StageArt, the show will open their 2018 season on 31 January and play until 12 February at Chapel off Chapel, and Parke was the obvious choice to lead the production.
“I saw Falsettos at the STC in 1992 and LOVED it, but I saw it last year on Broadway and that is what really shifted things for me”, Parke told AussieTheatre in an exclusive interview.
“I saw it the night that Trump was elected and it was so moving in a way that I hadn’t seen before. There was a speech at the end and it was just about family. Apart from the fact that I’ve loved it for years, you look at Australia and what Australia is going through at the moment – it makes more sense to me than ever to do Falsettos.”
Written in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS pandemic, the show revolves around the life of a charming, intelligent, neurotic gay man named Marvin, his wife, lover, about-to-be-Bar-Mitzvahed son, their psychiatrist and the lesbians next door. When tragedy strikes and Marvin’s lover is diagnosed with AIDS, all participants must put their differences aside and unite as the modern family they have now become.
“There’s that amazing William Finn song, ‘Unlikely Lovers’ – it’s all about a man trying to maintain a family, and a very unusual family. That is what the whole piece is about. It’s perfect to do the piece right now”
It’s an achingly poignant, quirky and hilarious look at the infinite possibilities that make up a modern family (Modern Family, the musical?) and although there is a timeliness to the piece in Australia right now – with the ABS Marriage Equality Survey still taking place at the time of writing – Parke is keen to stress that Falsettos is not a political play.
“I reckon we have a responsibility as theatre makers, as always, to think ‘what does this piece mean in 2018?’ It’s not written as a protest. It’s a really interesting study of a family and a very quirky, bright broadway score by William Finn underpins it all with some really wonderful humour. I‘m just going to tell stories as best I can and see what resonances there are as a result of what happens here in the next little while”, he said.
Just one of the 8 roles in the show has been cast at this stage, and Parke is over the moon to talk about his leading man, Don Winsor, who will be playing the charismatic lead, Marvin.
“I’ve had the opportunity to introduce new talent that I’ve seen in Australia. Often I’ll work with people from WAAPA of VCA or AIM and there will be talent that I can celebrate and bring to public attention. But it’s a really unique thing to actually celebrate to the attention of Australians someone who is so established. But we don’t know him. He’s so established in America – he’s played such great roles but we don’t know him yet”, said Parke.
Having toured the country as the understudy for Henry Higgins in the Julie Andrews-helmed 60th Anniversary production of My Fair Lady, Winsor has a list of international credits to his name, including leading roles in Beauty and the Beast, Chicago, and Jesus Christ Superstar. He recently filmed a role in the upcoming Olivia-Newton John biopic starring Delta Goodrem for Fremantle Media, with a 2017 release date to be announced.
“One of the exciting things for me is working with someone who is so talented but that people are yet to know. It feels like a great little secret that I get to reveal. It’s one of the things that really drew me to the project. Marvin is such a multi-faceted role and you really need a great singer and a great actor and Don is both of those things and people really going to be asking “who is he and where did he come from?”. I’m really thrilled to be part of that.”
StageArt, led by Katherine Armstrong and Robbie Carmellotti, continues to produce ground-breaking musicals that are rarely seen on Australian stages. Their success with In The Heights and The Color Purple have put them on the map as an independent theatre company to watch. The company strives to cast its shows with diversity and equality by showcasing the extraordinary talent that exists locally.
Introducing Dean Drieberg and Don Winsor as associate producers and partnering with the Victorian Aids Council, Falsettos will play as part of the annual Midsumma Festival.
Waitlist tickets via www.stageart.com.au/falsettos