The Michigan Daily - W/eue4", exc. - Thursday, November 9, 1995 - 5B
'Falsettoland' educates, entertains
Not-so-traditional family explored in new musical
By Melssa Rose Bemardo
Daily Theater Editor
It was past midnight on a Sunday
evening and director Job Christenson
had just finished a rehearsal for the
musical "Falsettoland." Exiting the
Arena Theater, his arms overflowed
with costume pieces, three pairs of
women's shoes, and a garden salad
from Burger King. "Falsettoland" pro-
ducer Glenn Seven Allen (who also
plays Whizzer) offered to help. That
offer was echoed by Matt Robison,
head of Queer Unity Project (one of
the major sponsors of"Falsettoland").
"No, no, I'm fine," Christenson
said. But as soon as a black pump hit
the floor, Allen and Robison rushed
to relieve him of his burden.
Clearly, I was in the midst of a very
These men are at the head of the
"Falsettoland" production team, but
their relationship transcends the cin-
der-block walls of the theater. Back at
Allen's apartment, we sipped hot tea
and munched on tortilla chips. Their
has made me
remember why t
went into theater
Because it can
reach people and
it can unify
- Job Christenson, director
rapport was astounding. They gave
each other the type of selfless compli-
ments usually reserved for eulogies.
They finished each other's sentences.
They laughed and joked endlessly,
but "Falsettoland" is quite a serious
subject for them. It's been their project
since last February.
Allen was the first to encounter the
show, while doing research on it and
its predecessors, "In Trousers" and
"March of the Falsettos."
"The more I got to know it the more
I started to really fall in love with it,"
he remembered. "(Back then). I was
considering directing it, and then I
freaked out. 'Wait a second! I don't
know how to direct!'"'This was where
Christenson became involved.
"Glenn put the bug in my ear around
February and I started listening to it,"
Christenson said. "I went out, actu-
ally, and bought the libretto the very
next day. I started reading, and just
absolutely fell in love with it." He
enlisted the help of his good friend
(and musical director) Sam Davis, "a
really brilliant prodigy composer"
with whom he had worked in
MUSKET's "Baby." After they de-
cided "OK - we're doing it!,"
Christenson thought: "OK, we have
this great show, very entertaining, but
how are we going to communicate all
that it has to offer?" That paved the
way to Queer Unity Project (QUP).
QUP head and founder Matt
Robison got the pitch from
Christenson. "In terms ofQUP, this is
rightup our alley," Robison said. "Not
only is it something that's entertain-
ing and fun, and there are great people
working on it, but it challenges seri-
ous preconceived notions of our soci-
ety regarding family, sexual orienta-
tion and HIV-AIDS awareness."
"Falsettoland" continues the story
of Marvin, a man who has left his wife
and son for another man. The wife,
who has run off with Marvin's psy-
chiatrist, is consumed with her son's
upcoming bar-mitzvah. The illness of
Marvin's lover further complicates
the story; the "lesbians from next
door" complete the picture of this
After the collaboration was sealed,
the three set about their various indi-
vidual duties. "Funding. Money. Writ-
ing proposals," Robison said of his role,
in which, he emphasized, many mem-
bers of QUP have assisted. As pro-
ducer, Allen serves as liason between
the show and outside groups, from QUP
to the media to Basement Arts (pro-
vider of the Arena Theater and some
funding). Christenson, as director, saw
his purpose as "basically delivering the
goods"; on a larger level, "creating a
piece that not only would produce some-
thing that was entertaining but also have
a lot of social value."
Beyond their job titles, however,
each of the three has gained a great
deal from the show, some of which
they hope the audience will take away.
Allen recalled a difficult transition
of his own - one which many others
at the University might be facing. "I
came to this school two and a half
years ago, being kind of scared and
maybe a little homophobic," he con-
fessed. "I have come a long way in
terms of my way I view things and my
friends and who I care about.
"If people can come see this show -
I don't care what their pre-conceived
notions are - and care about charac-
ters who are gay or aren't gay or what-
ever, but go through an emotional expe-
rience with these kinds of characters
and care about them, I think that's astep
in the right direction," he said.
Robison feels he has acquired a
new perspective on gay activism, and
an altered approach to issues of sexual
orientation, race and gender. "Bring-
ing these themes to entertainment,
and the idea that you can unify them
so that people will come voluntarily
and at the same time they'll listen,
they'll emotionally connect," he said.
"It doesn't have to fit into their logi-
cal belief systems that something is
good and something else is bad; if
they feel some way they'll change
that belief system."
Christenson took heart in the possi-
bilities and bounds of theater. "(This
experience) has made me remember
why I went into theater," he said. "Be-
cause it can reach people and it can
unify people and educate people and do
all these things. It can do so much more
than just produce a good show."
The three summarized their mission:
"To unify, educate and entertain the
community," on a variety of issues -
family values, life, love, AIDS aware-
ness. Considering the strength behind
that goal - embodied in Allen,
Christenson and Robison - its execu-
tion should be something very special.
The Jackson 5 got their break here in the Motor City on the original soul label "Motown Records." That's right, even little
Michael began dancing here long ago in his white, high-heeled platforms. Bet it hurts to moon-walk in those ...
Continued from Page 1
out there and they don't know one thing
about music. They don't know what
keys they sing in. You should know,
especially when you start getting older
like I am. You have to adjust to the age.
You have the ability and the learned
knowledge how to adjust and how to
nurture your talent and how to season
yourself, and how to withstand the tri-
als and tribulations of show business,"
Although the record company moved
to California, many ofthe Motown stars
either chose to stay in Detroit or have
since returned home from Los Angeles.
Reeves continues to live in downtown
Detroit, and said she frequently sees her
"We were made together, so we're as
close as siblings," she said. "There's so
many ofus that have gone on to heaven,
I make it a point to spend time with
Mary Wilson, and I see the Four Tops,
and the Temptations, and the Spinners,
and the Contours as often as I can."
Because of the close bonds between
the Motown artists personally and mu-
sically, many of them still frequently
tour and play together. "With the oldies
stations playing our music and Motown
releasing records on occasion, we're as
current as any Top 40 act. I work 42
weeks a year," Reeves said.
When she's not working, the Motown
Diva enjoys helping charities like Think
Twice, Lutheran Social Services, and
she participates in other programs with
Martha Reeves still enjoys hearing
her songs on the radio, but she said
hearing them in commercials and in the
movies is "a big thrill. Like when we
saw 'Good Morning, Vietnam,' my son
had heard ("Nowhere to Run") was in
there. He took me and he advised me
not to jump up when I hear something.
And I almost did. He grabbed my arm
and said 'Mom, you're 50-years-old.
Don't make a spectacle. Don't embar-
rass me.' Because I hooped. It was great
to hear Robin Williams say 'Martha
and the Vandellas' and play 'Nowhere
But when she's feeling a little remi-
niscent of those great Motown days,
Reeves said she likes to take a drive to
the Motown Historical Museum in De-
troit and catch up with the old days.
The Motown Historical Museum is in
the original Hitsville U.S.A. house and
pays tribute to the company's artists and
visionaries who created and managed the
Motown operation. The knowledgeable
tour guides take visitors through
Motown's past, from the early days of
Barry Gordy's life, up through the se-
quined glove and black hat Michael Jack-
son wore on the "Motown 25" television
special in 1983 where he debuted the
ing, videos, and especially music, the
museum is the best way to see the
magic of Motown without actually
being there. A tour of the museum
takes visitors through the company's
office space and the Gordy family
living areas, but the most magical of
all is the walk through the original
Studio A where the various Motown
artists gathered to record their records
from 1959 to 1972.
In 1972, Gordy moved Motown to
California to pursue a future in televi-
sion and movies. While the Detroit
business offices remained open for a
while after the move, the Michigan
end was severed when Gordy sold the
company to Polygram in the '80s.
"Detroit has an abundance of talent,
and sometimes during my mentorship
program, I discover quite a bit of up and
coming professionals who need a record
company to expose them. Hopefully if
I talk around enough, I'll find someone
interested in actually opening another
recording company here that will be an
outlet forthe many many talented people
I have encountered."
"Artists come and go," Reeves said.
"But the Motown sound will be around
The Motown Historical Museum is
located at 2648 W. Grand Blvd., De-
troit. The museum is open Sunday and
Monday from noon to 5 p.m., and 10
a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Satur-
day. Admission is $6 for adults and $3
for children. Formore information, call
B. DAMIAN CAP/Daily
The masterminds behind "Faisettoland" have a close working relationship.
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