ABSTRACT

For decades, the performance of Jewishness in the American musical theater balanced assimilation to a predominant Christian Anglo-Saxon society while retaining an ethno-religious identity. Much of the drama and humor in the performance of Jewishness on the American musical stage depended on that balance and how much to one side a performer, a plot, or a song weighted. This article demonstrates that William Finn’s songs for his musical Falsettoland replace this Jewish anxiety with gay characters experiencing a similar tension. They live patriarchal lives with heterosexual gender dynamics, while still in search of a homosexual identity in the age of AIDS. While this “new” anxiety comprises the serious portions of Falsettoland, Finn uses the characters’ Jewish identity to create comic songs. This article ultimately considers the implications that Finn’s construction and representation in song of Jewishness as essentially comedic had in the American musical during and after the 1980s.

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