Fun Home, which just opened at the Fox, has recently begun its first national tour. It’s not quite coming home for the holidays – this is a New York show – but it’s surely visiting the grandparents. Fox Associates, which began with the glorious makeover of the Fox Theatre in 1982, are among the producers of the show, which won five Tony awards. (Take a look at the names above the title on page 6 of the show’s playbill. Some very familiar ones, especially if you’re a regular theatre-goer.)
The title refers to author Alison Bechdel family’s name for their business, which had been in the clan for a number of years. Her father not only ran the funeral home, he was a high school English teacher in the small Pennsylvania town in which she grew up.
Fun Home, like many shows from La Cage aux Folles to Angels in America, deals with homophobia. Bechdel came out as a lesbian when she was in college. Soon after telling her parents, she found out her father was homosexual. Not much later, he died, hit by a bread truck. She believes his death was a suicide.
Yes, heavy stuff, themes about gender and sexuality and family conflict, to say nothing of the family biz. Yet somehow this manages to often be quite lighthearted. Alison appears, sometimes simultaneously, as three actors, the more or less middle-aged one, Kate Shindle, acting as narrator and sometimes participant, Small Allison, about 10 years old, played most performances, including the opening, by Alessandra Baldacchino, and Medium Allison in her late teens, Abby Corrigan.
Baldacchino and her brothers, played by Pierson Salvador and Lennon Nate Hammond, are a good team, particularly when they frolic through a scene at the funeral home while they’re doing some chores. While this world seems far away to most urbanites, in the small town where this takes place, like the one I grew up in, pretty much every one in the county knew one of the families that had funeral homes (Hello, Cozeans, Boyers, Caldwells and Sparkses!), so kids might well be dusting or putting together spaghetti boards. Maybe not so much popping out of coffins, but who knows? Anyway, kudos to the kids, particularly Baldacchino, who carries a lot of the show on her small, strong self.
Corrigan, as Medium Allison, does a good amount of heavy lifting, too. She’s got a great voice, and has a swell time with the song “Changing My Major” as she’s in a dorm room with her girlfriend. Yes, that’s what’s going on; I heard one very audible gasp when they kissed. Alison, the adult, is solid but not stolid, in Shindle’s hands. She’s often seen working at her desk, trying to figure out how to write about this experience.
Robert Petkoff is Bruce, Alison’s father. It’s a complicated role, running from warm father to compulsive, sometimes violent behavior with the implications of mania in the last weeks of his life. Not a very lovable sort of person much of the time, but elegantly acted by Petkoff.
The family dynamics here are what set this show apart from other coming-of-age, and they make it memorable. Bechtel got to this by channeling her visual art talents into cartooning, became syndicated and then wrote the book on which the musical is based, as well as a subsequent one about her mother. Seeing an admittedly partial view of what that was like is deeply interesting.
Most of the miking and sound work quite well; those lyrics often contain pertinent pieces of information in contemporary shows like this one. Lighting from Ben Stanton works well in a situation where flashback-and-forths like this one happen rapidly. The orchestra, which contains both touring and local musicians, is onstage with a score that’s more memorable for those lyrics than the tunes themselves, but it certainly adds to things under the direction of Micah Young.
Several items of business to point out. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m., which seems to be becoming the new normal here. The exceptions are the Sunday evening shows, which crank up at 6:30 p.m. There is no intermission, and runs about 95 minutes.
through November 27
527 N. Grand Blvd.