BWW Review: FUN HOME at The Encore Musical Theatre Company is Home Sweet Fun
In the Tony Award-winning musical Fun Home, cartoonist Alison Bechdel starts every scene by saying "Caption," followed by a description of what is about to happen. Fun Home was adapted into a musical by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori and is based on Bechdel's memoir of the same name and subtitled "A Family Tragicomic." So let's just say, Caption: Encore Theatre's production of Fun Home is not to be missed.
A tragicomedy indeed -and this is not a spoiler alert-as the audience finds out the ending of the intricate storyline early on. We have the lead character, Alison as an adult (Sarah B. Stevens), who takes us on a flashback journey of growing up in a family that all helped run their Bechdel Funeral Home (aka, the "Fun Home"). Her father (Daniel C. Cooney) is a closeted homosexual and her mother (Laura Austin) has been tormented and conflicted about it all these years and grapples with providing a sense of normalcy for their three children (Emmanuel Morgan, Gavin Cooney and Jojo Engelbert as Small Alison). Medium Alison (Grace Allyn) begins to examine her sexual identity in college and, tells the audience, "I leapt out of the closet and, four months later, my father killed himself by stepping in front of a truck."
Director Vincent J. Cardinal has put together a stellar cast that includes real-life mother-daughter (Austin and Allyn) playing mother-daughter on stage with father-son (Daniel C. Cooney and Gavin Cooney) playing the same. As the patriarch, Cooney's performance is pure and riveting. His gut-wrenching song, "Edges of the World," was a sheer masterpiece with no dry eyes left in the house.
Kron and Tesori have scripted the show perfectly, allowing each character to have their defining moments in solo songs. Austin's angst as a mother and wife is clearly evident in "Days and Days." Everything that Stevens sings as Big Alison is powerful and poignant, and she holds the focus as the story narrator beautifully. As Medium Alison, Allyn's performance is very well-nuanced, from her complicated relationship with her dad to a defining moment of coming out as a lesbian. Her "Changing My Major to Joan" song is definitely a fan favorite and a true comedy high point. Joan, Medium Alison's girlfriend, is played by Monica Spencer and she and Allyn have a nice stage chemistry. As small Alison, Jojo Engelbert tackles "Ring of Keys" like a true pro. Tyler J. Messinger has the enjoyable job of playing four different characters, including the young boy-toy to the middle-aged Bruce Bechdel. As the three young Bechdel siblings, Morgan, Cooney and Engelbert, have some incredible song and dance numbers that are fun standouts.
Fun Home relies on a fantastic orchestra, led by Music Director Tyler Driskill. Set designer Sarah Tanner, cleverly put the orchestra on stage in the adjacent parlor room while the scenes change in the center, from the Bechdel living room, to the funeral home to Medium Alison's dorm room, with Adult Alison having a strong drafting-table/office presence throughout the show.
Caption: Order tickets now before the entire run is sold out.
Fun Home runs Thursday-Sunday, through Oct. 13. Tickets are reserved seating, with Row A being handicapped accessible. The show runs 90 minutes and is performed without an intermission. Suggested age is 12+. Fun Home addresses adult themes including sexuality, infidelity and suicide.
Fun Home, sponsored in part by the Benard L. Maas Foundation. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets for Friday or Saturday evening performances are $36 Adults, $34 Seniors, $32 for youth 17 and under, or for a group of 10 or more. Tickets for Saturday and Sunday matinees are $34 Adults, $32 Seniors, $30 for youth 17 and under, or for a group of 10 or more. Tickets for Thursday evening performances are $32 Adults, $30 Seniors, and $28 for youth 17 and under, or for a group of 10 or more. Student Rush tickets are available if seating is available for $15 one hour prior to performance, by walk up only with a valid student ID. To reserve tickets, go to www.theencoretheatre.org or call (734) 268-6200. The Encore Musical Theatre Company is located at 3126 Broad Street in Dexter, MI.