BWW Review: Amazing FUN HOME at the Fox Theatre
I was book shopping a while back and stumbled across the graphic novel FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel. I sat down and read through it, appreciating Bechdel's artistic style, but also thoroughly engaged in the glimpses into her life that filled the pages. The musical version (music by Jeanine Tesori, with book and lyrics by Lisa Kron) definitely captures the essence of Bechdel's work, and that's really important when something is adapted for the stage. The current touring production of this show is playing at the Fox Theatre and I highly recommend this 2015 Tony Award winner.
The grown up Alison expresses her life succinctly when she says that: "My father and I grew up in the same small Pennsylvania town. And he was gay. And I was gay. And he killed himself. And I became a lesbian cartoonist." Of course, there's far more to the story, and through scenes that explore her past, both as a child and as a college teen, we gain extraordinary insight into the events that shaped her as a person. It's a life mixed with drama and comedy, and it has moments that are truly memorable.
Kate Shindle is just terrific as the forty-something Alison, watching and commenting on the action that transpires on stage. She's our guide, and we connect with her immediately. Alessandra Baldacchino (the role is shared with Carly Gold) was simply adorable as small Alison. Abby Corrigan takes on the pivotal role of medium Alison, and she's delightful to watch as she nervously explores her sexuality and begins to come of age as a person. All three shine vocally, but they're especially good when they get the opportunity to sing together.
Robert Petkoff does splendid work with the tricky role of Alison's closeted father, Bruce. He's an English teacher who also does historic home restoration. He also runs the local funeral home which, when slightly and rather ironically truncated, provides the eponymous "fun home." Petkoff manages to be likable even as his temperament and mood swing from one extreme to the other. Susan Moniz is dutiful but deeply frustrated as his wife, Helen. Moniz effectively conveys the mixed emotions she feels while struggling with Bruce's infidelities, as well as her daughter's own sudden admission. Karen Eilbacher has a nice forthright attitude as Joan, Alison's first lover. Lennon Nate Hammond (John) and Pierson Salvador (Christian) are solid as Alison's younger siblings, and Robert Hager neatly morphs into four separate supporting roles.
Sam Gold's direction draws superb performances from everyone involved, and the staging is extremely inventive. David Zinn's scenic design is very cleverly conceived and executed with some truly eye-popping moments that I won't reveal. Zinn's costume designs are good character fits as well, and it's cool the way he ties all three Alisons together. Micah Young's musical direction is superbly done, and I love being able to see the musicians on stage. Ben Stanton's lighting design is eye catching too, with a neat little moment where the action takes place in a collage of cartoon panel frames. Danny Mefford's choreography is relegated to one splashy and colorful number that provides a real lift.
FUN HOME is a great show, and it brings the graphic novel to life in magical ways that demand to be experienced. Check it out at the Fox Theatre through November 27, 2016.