James Lapine’s ‘Falsettos’ screens at the M.V. Film Center

Broadway comes to town

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Writer and director James Lapine will attend the screening of the film version of his musical "Falsettos" at the film center. — Stacey Rupolo

One of the perks of the Vineyard summer season is the number of luminaries of the arts world who not only either live or visit here but who also sometimes make public appearances at cultural events. One such opportunity will present itself next Tuesday, August 8, and Thursday, August 10, when Pulitzer prizewinning writer/director James Lapine will be on hand for a preview screening of the theatrical film of his musical “Falsettos” at 7:30 pm, with doors opening at 6:45 for a light reception, at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

The sung-through musical originally premiered on Broadway in 1992, garnering seven Tony awards, including two wins for Best Book of a Musical (Lapine and William Finn) and Best Musical Score (Finn). Last fall the show was revived on Broadway, earning five Tony nominations.

Two performances of the 2016-2017 production were filmed at Lincoln Center for a future broadcast as part of the PBS series “Live from Lincoln Center.” The film version was released to select movie theaters last month, and proved so popular that the distributors added more screenings and more theaters nationwide. The film will air on PBS in October. However, Vineyard audiences will get a sneak peek at the filmed performance, preceded by a reception in the lobby and accompanied by a post-screening talk with Mr. Lapine.

The playwright, who also directed the revival, arranged for the local screening, and is hosting the event as a benefit for the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society.

“Falsettos” is the story of a large, eccentric, and dysfunctional — but loving — Jewish family in New York at the end of the 1970s. The musical deals with such subjects as bisexuality and AIDS, hot topics at the time it was first produced.

“I had no idea that it would do well at this point,” said Mr. Lapine in a recent phone interview with The Times. “It was kind of daring in the 1980s to do a show about gay people — and addressing AIDS when it was a real issue. We didn’t know whether there would be an audience for it now.”

Clearly, judging by the reception of the revival and the film, these issues still resonate with modern audiences, particularly, as Mr. Lapine pointed out, in light of President Trump’s recent policy banning transgender people from the military, and other prejudicial leanings of the current administration.

Charles Isherwood of the New York Times called the revival “an exceptional production of a perfect musical!”

The show stars two-time Tony awardwinning actor Christian Borle, who is currently winning accolades for his performance as Willie Wonka in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” on Broadway. Borle and two other actors were nominated for Tonys for their roles in “Falsettos.”

Mr. Lapine lives part-time in Edgartown with his wife, screenwriter Sarah Kernochan (“Learning to Drive,” “9½ Weeks,” “What Lies Beneath”), and his daughter, author and food blogger Phoebe Lapine, who recently published her second book, “The Wellness Project” (Avery/Penguin Random House).

The acclaimed playwright has collaborated with Stephen Sondheim on a variety of projects, including “Sunday in the Park with George” and “Into the Woods.” Lapine has directed multiple theater and film projects, including 2012’s revival of “Annie” on Broadway, and the film version of “Into the Woods.”

In the past Mr. Lapine has presented work-in-progress productions of some of his shows (in various stages of development at the time). Last year the Vineyard Arts Project hosted a reading of Lapine’s musical “Flying Over Sunset” with Christine Ebersole. In 2008, the Vineyard Playhouse presented a workshop production of “Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing.”

Also last summer, Mr. Lapine appeared at a screening of his film “Custody,” presented by the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival at the Chilmark Community Center.

Having just concluded a number of projects, Mr. Lapine has been able to spend more time on the Vineyard this summer than he is accustomed to, and is enjoying some well-deserved R and R. “I really made the effort this year to be here as much as possible,” he said. “I did three shows this past season.”

Screening of “Live from Lincoln Center’s” “Falsettos.” Followed by commentary by James Lapine, Tuesday, August 8, and Thursday, August 10, at 7:30 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. A reception with live music will precede the screening at 6:45. General admission, $30, MVFS members $25. All proceeds go toward the Film Center’s year-round programming.