Mom Theatre Blogger: Fun Home: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman

Fun Home Circle in the Square Theatre

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Fun Home is a musical that deserves to be watched, celebrated and studied by aspiring playwrights, theatre enthusiasts and professionals for years to come. My hope is it wins the Tony Award for Best Musical, and without a doubt, it will deservedly win some Tonys, if not that one.

It is a brilliant theatrical piece on so many levels and a star vehicle for all involved.  What’s so compelling is that it got made at all. I’d love to spend time with book writer/lyricist Lisa Kron and composer Jeanine Tesori to be privvy to their creative process. Even before it made its way to Broadway, the buzz was huge. It had been much talked about at The Public Theatre where it was named Best Musical by the New York Drama Critics Circle, and received the OBIE, Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle and Off Broadway Alliance Awards in the 2013-2014 season. I missed the opportunity to see it then, but it’ been on my radar ever since, and it was worth the wait. 

If you were to ask for a “one minute elevator speech” summing up the story, what would not likely come readily to mind is……oh yes, that’s musical material. In that, lies the genius.  Based on the graphic memoir by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, Fun Home tells the tale of a family of five, seemingly happy, but not living true to themselves, and tragedy results when one comes to this blatant realization and struggles with the facade that has been cemented over the years.

Bruce Bechdel is the family patriarch who owns and runs a funeral home in rural Pennsylvania….hence “Fun Home.”  His three young kids hide in coffins, sing and dance on them, and the young Alison even sees a cadaver (and wonders why her father exposes her to that).  The mother is loving and supportive but has been living a life of internal strife endeavoring to parent and be a dutiful wife knowing Bruce is romping with men.

We meet Alison at three stages, and it’s the eldest version of her, 43, who narrates this stirring story as it shifts back ‘n forth in time, as if she’s reading from her cartoons.  She endeavors to come to literal terms with her journey to date and what lead to her father’s suicidal demise.

I hung intently on the edge of my seat the entire 90 minutes no intermission. While I knew the tragic story….so no spoiler alert….everything about it was captivating, and I don’t say this lightly or often.  Even though there are light moments, we know where they are coming from, and it’s simply heart-breaking and at times gut-wrenching. But the raw and honest material is balanced so well that at the end, when I felt on the verge of a major tearful breakdown, the next number bounced back up.  I did not want the show to end, and when it did, I had to sit still for a few minutes to catch my breathe and process what I had just experienced.

As a mom and daughter, it particularly struck me.  As parents, we do the best we can, as did our parents in raising us.  But sometimes we fall short, especially in an effort to live and represent the American dream, or what we think it should be.  All parents, or at least good ones, make sacrifices for their kids, and there are tradeoffs.  But, should one of the tradeoffs be the abandonment of personal truth? 

Tesori is one of todays most brilliant and original composers, and Kron’s lyrics and book are so skillfully crafted and woven throughout. What an impressive team…and two women at that! Lets hope they continue to pave the theatrical way.

Sam Gold’s direction is right on, and the staging speaks volumes as furniture, props, etc. get raised and lowered, further evoking loss.

Circle in the Square is the perfect Fun Home theatre.  Sitting in the round, you feel as if you’re part of this family…..a fly on the seemingly perfectly adorned wall. 

The stellar cast of Fun Home includes Tony® Award-winner Michael Cerveris, three-time Tony® Award nominee Judy Kuhn, Beth Malone, Obie Award-winner Sydney Lucas, Emily Skeggs, Roberta Colindrez, Zell Steele Morrow, Joel Perez, Oscar Williams, Lauren Patten, Gabriella Pizzolo, Marrick Smith, Jim Stanek, and Nicole Van Giesen. 

Cerveris is hugely affecting as the tortured father.  Lucas is both adorable and earnest, particularly when she sings about keys.   When Skeggs sings about changing her major to Joan, we feel both her joy and pain in the discovery of her lesbian awakening.  Kuhn as the mother bares all when she sings the revealing song about her family life.  Malone has a beautiful voice and strong presence as the eldest Alison.

The creative team of Fun Home also includes Danny Mefford (Choreography), David Zinn (Set and Costume Design), Ben Stanton (Lighting Design), Kai Harada (Sound Design), Chris Fenwick (Music Direction) and John Clancy (Orchestrations).

Bring the Kleenix, and see Fun Home!!


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