FUN HOME at Baltimore Center Stage - A Musical You Will Remember Forever
Yes, FUN HOME is an unusual musical.
Based on Alison Bechdel's best-selling graphic novel (I had no idea what this meant before seeing this show) and directed by Baltimore Center Stage Associate Artistic Director Hana Sharif with delicacy and poignancy, this a show that linger with you long after you leave the intimate Head Theatre.
It is an autobiographical story told from the point of view of a 43-year-old woman who is an artist and relives her turbulent life as a 9-year-old and then as a freshman at Oberlin College.
Her family lives in bucolic Beech Creek, Pennsylvania takes place across time and memory from the 1970's to more recent days.
The father Bruce Bechdel has a trio of jobs - a high school English teacher, restores old houses, and runs the family funeral home. He has a wife, a daughter who narrates the play, age 43, her younger self, "Small Alison" (age 9), who later becomes a coed at Oberlin College (Medium Alison). Alison also had two brothers, the youngest John (aged 8) and Christian (aged 12).
The ensemble is just amazing. Playing the father Jeffrey Denman who has quite a complex man to play. He loves his wife and children but is a closeted gay and must confront the possibility that his daughter Alison is gay. Denman gives a superb performance.
Michelle Dawson plays his wife Helen who plays the piano in the background and knowing about her husband makes life very challenging. Dawson has the "Eleven O'clock" number at the end "Days and Days". What a performer!
In the theater newspaper "Backstage", I noticed the listing for the children.
For "Small Alison" it states: "8-10 yrs. old, Alison Bechdel as a child, a tomboy, smart, confident, precocious, opinionated, full of energy and has a special connection with her dad, Strong vocalist. Well Molly Lyons certainly fits the bill. What an amazing young actress and gives a superb performance. I met her mother after the show, and she informed me she almost made the Broadway cast of FROZEN. I told her if I could buy stock in her, I would. Remember her name.
Playing the two young sons are Liam Hamilton and Jon Martens. They along with Molly Lyons literally bring down the house when they sing a made up commercial for the funeral home entitled "Come to The Fun Home". It is hilarious.
Playing "Medium Alison" is Laura Arrell. She has a terrific number as she begins her matriculation at Oberlin College, realized she is gay, meets another young female "Joan" (a lovely Shannon Tya) and sings the hysterical and moving "Changing My Major to Joan".
Playing the 43-year-old Alison is Andrea Pretinario who narrates the show and does an admirable job. She hovers over all the action.
Justin Gregory Lopez plays a myriad of men attracted by Mr. Bechdel.
Director Sharif has done a masterful job putting this all together. I loved the show on Broadway, but I loved this production even more. Yeoman's work!!!
Kudos to the seven-piece orchestra under the baton of Evan Rees (also on Keyboards). They have a powerful sound. They deserve mention: Alex Aucoin (Percussion), Andy Axelrad (Reeds), Zack Branch (Basses), Amelia Giles (Violin/Viola), Gerry Kunkel (Guitars), and MaryAnn Perkel (Cello). I loved seeing their photo put on the backstage scrim at the end of the show.
Hana S. Kim deserves special mention for her amazing projections on the back of the stage and on the floor.
Karen Perry did the spot-on costumes, Xavier Pierce did the effective lighting, Charles Coes and Nathan A. Roberts did the Sound (never missed a lyric), Scott Bradley was the Scenic Designer (amazing what props come under the stage), and Jaclyn Miller did the entertaining Choreography.
FUN HOME was nominated for 12 Tony Awards and won 5, including Best Musical in 2015. When you see it, you will understand why.
It's great Center Stage continues its long tradition of presenting musicals. Hope it continues.
FUN HOME continues until Feb. 28, 2019. For tickets, call 410-332-0033 or visit www.centerstage.org. It runs 90 minutes without an intermission.