When the Bechdel children tell you to “come to the fun home,” you’d better listen. Fun Home, based on the graphic-novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, tells the life and times of real-life cartoon artist Alison Bechdel. The musical, told from Bechdel’s perspective at three different ages, primarily focuses on the difficult relationship between Alison and her family, especially her father. Fun Home won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Musical, and is also credited for being the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist.
Fun Home’s story is told by three “Alisons,” representing Bechdel’s youth, young adulthood, and adulthood. Adult Alison, played by Kate Shindle, serves as the primary narrator, ready to fill the story with her embarrassment and insight to her pas events. Shindle plays the almost omniscient role of Alison with wisdom and humanity, and demonstrates her ability to truly control the audience's emotions. Abby Corrigan’s Middle Alison while starts off almost too naive and dreamy about college life, quickly becomes a source of awkward and adorable comic relief. Corrigan’s performance and how it captures the gawky moments all young adults face, became a notable and hilarious part of the show. And no one can forget the tiny powerhouse Alessandra Baldacchino who plays Small Alison. Her energy is ever-present and full of emotion. All three actors greatly show how Alison Bechdel becomes the woman she is, and have voices that beautifully blend together.
To me this show feels especially unique in the actors’ vocal performances. While all of the actors undoubtedly have vocal talent, Fun Home is not a show where singers show off style and flair. The acting and emotions heavily come through almost all of the musical numbers, and do wonders to pull at the audience’s heartstrings. The only real complaint of the performances is the sometimes inability to understand the child actors who play the young Bechdel children, but this is only an occasional issue. It is even joked in the script how children can speak and adults may not catch a single word.
Fun Home’s set, originally designed for an arena theater, spends a majority of the show barren with only detailed props. When a background is added in the tense moments of the show, the enclosure of the set further expresses the tension Alison feels as she unravels her family’s situation. As the Orpheum is a proscenium style theater, it interests me how this was done in an arena, and if those performances lacked the sense of tension and anxiety this design gives. Unfortunately, the Tuesday performance at the Orpheum experienced some sound issues, but it was nothing that took away from the great show!
No matter the identity, or relations with family, seeing Fun Home is like looking in a mirror. The musical encapsulates being a child, adolescent, adult and a parent, and all of the emotions that come with those stages. The story expresses the highs and lows that come with life, and truly is a show for all.