Based on the 2006 graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, Fun Home has quickly grown into a success since it’s debut in 2013 and appearance on Broadway two years later. The graphic memoir has won various literary awards including the “Lamda Literary Award,” and the Broadway production won five Tony awards out of twelve nominations! Its progressive, honest theme and its music can be accredited to its success.
It was fascinating to watch three actresses - Kate Shindle, Abby Corrigan, and Alessandra Baldacchino - synchronize as they simultaneously play Alison at different phases in her life. The collaboration is evident between the three even though neither Corrigan or Baldacchino can acknowledge Shindle. I was especially impressed by the voice quality of the young and undeniably talented Baldacchino. As she sang Ring of Keys I felt a sense of wistfulness sweep over me as I realized the it would be the last time I’d hear her voice envelop the hilarious yet melodic song. While Alison is clearly the main character, Robert Petkoff - Alison’s father Bruce - captures the spotlight audaciously. From dozens of rows into the audience, I could still feel the fiery energy his character exudes, which makes his impassioned actions all the more powerful and realistic! What is also interesting is the use of monologues. Frequently, characters appear to address other characters, yet face the audience and engage in a one-sided interaction. This technique increases the emotional investment audience members feel for characters.
I enjoyed how the orchestra is onstage during the performance rather than in the pit. The live music, directed by Micah Young and coordinated by Antoine Silverman, intensifies emotional scenes and to see the orchestra onstage as they escalate the mood delighted me on a technical level. There is also a range in the music. At times, the music takes on the tone of a ballad, and earlier I felt like I was watching Jackson 5. The set, created by David Zinn, creates a cozy feeling with the exposed brick and warm, red tans of Alison’s childhood home. The only aspect I didn’t entirely understand is a white wall that’s lowered halfway through the show. It makes sense to differentiate her settings as a child, but seems frivolous in an already established college setting. The lights, designed by Ben Stanton, are a different story. At the beginning in Alison’s childhood home, the lights are positioned and adjusted to give the effect of sunlight streaming in through a window, which contributes to the cozy feel. At several emotionally intense moments between Alison and her father, the lights cast dark shadows across the stage, creating eerie contrast. Also, I found it interesting to see them use lights that were level with the actors hanging on either side of the stage. It creates a closed in feeling.
It is endearing to watch the child actors sing and dance. They exude such an innocent energy that contrasts with the realities that they remain unaware to until they’re much older. I wish we would have been able to see more of Alison’s siblings and see their reactions to their father’s increasingly bizarre behavior. Which touches on my last point: Fun Home exposes the realities of LGBTQ people in the recent past and today. It exposes the frustrations that ensues and the deterioration of health as identity is eschewed, and the suffering that clings to denial. Fun Home encourages communication concerning sexuality as well as acceptance.