Review: "Fun Home"

I entered "Fun Home" on a whim after standing in the cancellation line and finally getting a ticket five minutes before the show started. I left Fun Home feeling extremely emotional. Not just emotional in the sense that it made me cry, which it did, but also because I was trying to process everything in this hilarious, tragic, and loving musical. 

"Fun Home" came to Broadway back in April, just a week before the Tony nomination eligibility period ended, and in June the musical was awarded five Tonys, including Best Musical. It's the adaptation of Alison Bechdal's graphic novel memoir of the same name, where Bechdal explores her complex relationship with her father and how both of them come to understand their sexualities, each in drastically different ways.

It's not as much an exact retelling of the novel as it is a retelling of the stages that led up to the novel.I don't mean to spoil a lot, but the final lines of the play are actually the first lines of the novel. Present-day Alison (Beth Malone) is onstage for the entire play, observing while her past plays out in front of her. Alison begins the play by saying that she "doesn't trust memory," and as she looks back, we as an audience understand why. It's like reading a story over again once you already know the ending--you know what happens, but now you're viewing it differently, trying to understand why it happened how it did. People and events appeared one way in the moment, but there's always so much going on under the surface that nobody has any idea about.

The imaginative set really supports this idea. All of the set pieces are under the stage, and can be raised and lowered as needed. The audience saw what was presented to them, but none of what was happening underneath, which is exactly what everyone in the play, especially Alison's father Bruce, did to each other. (A couple behind me actually made this observation as we were leaving the theater and I wish I had been clever enough to think of it as well.)

All of the actors were incredible. Malone did a wonderful job carrying the show as Alison, Michael Cerveris proved he deserved his Tony with his performance as Bruce, and of course Judy Kuhn, who played Alison's mother Helen, can do no wrong. Sydney Lucas definitely steals the show (and your heart) as Small Alison, and it was clear that she was having the time of her life onstage. I also think that Emily Skeggs gave an amazing performance as Medium Alison. Her portrayal of Alison Bechdal in her college years when she "leapt out of the closet" was perfectly awkward, fragile, and emotional.

The sadness of this play will sneak up on you. One minute, you'll be laughing, or feeling perfectly comfortable, or thinking about how some aspect of Bechdal's family dynamic reminds you of your own, and suddenly, you're crying. "Fun Home" will take you through more emotions than you thought you could feel in 100 minutes, which also means it will stay in your mind and your heart long after the lights go up. I honestly found myself understanding more of "Fun Home" in the days after the show more than when I was in the theater. The end left me feeling hopeful, and even happy in a way. I guess I judge dramas by how empty they made me feel at the end. But "Fun Home" made me feel full. And I think that's just as good.

"Fun Home" gets four out of four stars from me. That, coupled with the fact that it's an important musical and the first Broadway musical with a young lesbian protagonist, means you should go see it! Until then, here's the soundtrack for your listening pleasure. I recommend It All Comes Back, Come to the Fun Home (which is sung by the three Bechdal children and although cute on the recording is absolutely adorable live), Changing My Major, Ring of Keys, Days and Days, Telephone Wire, Edges of the World, Flying know what just listen to all of it.

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