In Trousers: A Summary/Analysis
On the cast recording vinyl, William Finn wrote
The form of the show is simple: whenever things get too hot for the older Marvin, he reverts back to himself at fourteen. After 14: he has a high school sweetheart, isn’t big with the intimacies, gets married, isn’t big with the intimacies, and leaves his wife for a man. So Marvin grows up (after a fashion), says goodbye to the ladies (more to the point), and learns to live with always getting what he wants- which is the story of In Trousers.
In the libretto for the 1986 revised show, Finn added to this: “But alot of the material was about my learning to write the kind of show songs I wanted to write. So the show is about Marvin’s education, and mine.” Ira Wetizman has called it an “impressionistic portrait of Marvin.”
A circle on the floor, an enormous Venetian blind painted blue, a wall through which ladies can disappear.
His high school sweetheart
His teacher, Miss Goldberg (who always wears sunglasses)
Marvin’s Giddy Seizures - Marvin & the ladies
The first number, of course, introduces the main character, Marvin, and sets the tone for the rest of the show. Basically, it is establishing the baseline: Marvin at 14 years old (as mentioned by Finn). He’s a weird kid, who acts inappropriately, impulsively, and selfishly. He craves the attention of others, so he makes scenes by throwing tantrums or “fits” which are represented by giddy seizures. But it’s also important to note that this song is not a specific event or experience, it’s sort of an embodiment of how 14 year old Marv acts. All the ladies are on stage and singing, but they’re not really present in the action. Because there isn’t any real action.
How the Body Falls Apart - Ladies
Once Marvin is gone, they transition to his wife’s song by having the ladies sing this sort of… ambiguous declaration about life. I guess? There is again not really any action here. I mean… “things on which we most depend seem to fail us in the end” is sort of a resonant theme, I would say.