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REVIEW: Fun Home is Heart-wrenching, Poetic & Funny @attpac #FunHome

Fun Home: Opening Night Ovation in Dallas

Fun Home, which won five Tony Awards (including Best Musical) is an engaging and unusual coming-of-age tale. The show is now playing in Dallas, Texas where it opened to a cheering crowd and standing ovation last night.

The National Tour Company of Fun Home (c) Joan Marcus
The National Tour Company of Fun Home (c) Joan Marcus

Fun Home: A Cartoonist’s Life Story

Fun Home is an original musical play based on the best-selling graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic  written and drawn by cartoonist, Alison Bechdel. The story is revealed through the eyes of Alison Bechdel during three pivotal stages in her life: as a 10-year-old girl, a college freshman, and as an adult in her 40’s.

Despite hopping through several decades, Fun Home’s non-linear storyline is expertly woven together. Even though there are times when all three Alisons appear on stage together, it was handled so smoothly that I was never once confused as the to the time and place.

Young Alison (played alternately by Carly Gold and Jadyn Schwartz) simply wants to connect with her father through playing games and spending time together. The funeral home where he works part-time is the “fun home” referred to by the title of the play.

Teenage Alison (Abby Corrigan) remains close to her dad, a high school English teacher who sends her books to discuss over the phone and through letters. However, when Alison realizes she is a lesbian and tries to come out to her family, their reaction to her is baffling.

Grown up Alison (Kate Shindle), is able to sift through the past with much more clarity. Only now can she make sense of the puzzling events of her earlier life, such as her father’s conflicts as a closeted homosexual, and her mother’s grief over his many gay affairs.

Carly Gold as 'Small Alison,' Robert Petkoff as 'Bruce' and Kate Shindle as ‘Alison’ in Fun Home (c) Joan Marcus
Carly Gold as ‘Small Alison,’ Robert Petkoff as ‘Bruce’ and Kate Shindle as ‘Alison’ in Fun Home (c) Joan Marcus

Surprisingly Funny

Don’t let my plot summary scare you off! While Fun Home explores deep emotions, including grief, pain and denial, it is not heavy or depressing. Perhaps this is because the story never points fingers, lays blame or paints anyone as “the bad guy.”

In fact, the audience and I laughed several times throughout the show. I should point out that the humor in Fun Home comes not through slapstick antics. What makes this show funny is the same thing that make it heart-wrenching; it’s matter of fact honesty. When the college age Alison tries to be cool and it falls flat, for instance, I laughed and cringed for her at the same time.

I have not yet read the graphic memoir upon which Fun Home is based, but I can only assume that the powerful book and lyrics created by Lisa Kron for this stage play are due in a large part to the emotional power of the source material from Alison Bechdel, herself.

Abby Corrigan as ‘Medium Alison,’ (Caroline Murrah in background as ‘Joan.’) (c) Joan Marcus
Abby Corrigan as ‘Medium Alison,’ (Caroline Murrah in background as ‘Joan.’) (c) Joan Marcus

Fun Home: Poetic and Immersive

Although Fun Home includes singing and dancing, this play is not your usual song and dance affair. Yes, the actors sing and dance, but it’s handled differently than you’d expect. Unlike traditional dance, the choreography by Danny Mefford, serves to amplify and express the storyline rather than remind us we are watching a play.

The haunting music composed by Jeanine Tesori and played by a small on-stage group of musicians was equally immersive. At times, the Fun Home orchestra blended so seamlessly with the play that I was barely aware of it on a conscious level. I really enjoyed the effect this had. It’s hard to explain, but as we walked out of the theater last night, I told my husband that it felt as if I had just watched a poem set to music rather than a Broadway musical!

(From L) Carly Gold as 'Small Alison', Luké Barbato Smith as 'Christian' and Henry Boshart as 'John' in Fun Home (c) Joan Marcus
(From L) Carly Gold as ‘Small Alison’, Luké Barbato Smith as ‘Christian’ and
Henry Boshart as ‘John’ in Fun Home (c) Joan Marcus

Engaging Coming of Age Tale

Obviously, not every audience member will directly relate to a lesbian cartoonist with a closeted gay father, but that’s not the point. What makes Fun Home so relatable is how honestly it lays out the emotions in Alison Bechdel’s family, especially the many layers to her relationship with her father.

Fun Home makes us ponder the mysteries in our own families, how even our closest family members can remain strangers at some level, and inspires us to think of how we might be enriched through thoughtful examination of our own childhood memories. I really enjoyed Fun Home, and I urge you to check it out when it visits a town near you!

Kate Shindle as 'Alison' and Robert Petkoff as 'Bruce' in Fun Home (c) Joan Marcus
Kate Shindle as ‘Alison’ and Robert Petkoff as ‘Bruce’ in Fun Home (c) Joan Marcus

Follow FUN HOME on social media:

Official website: Fun Home Broadway
Twitter profile: @FunHomeMusical
Hashtag for social media: #FunHome
AT&T Performing Arts Center on Twitter & Instagram: @ATTPAC

See FUN HOME in Dallas:

Where: AT&T Performing Arts Center/Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201
When: Through September 24, 2017
Tickets: Check availability and book online at the AT&T Performing Art Center official website.
Runtime: Runs for 1 hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission.

NOTE: While tickets were provided for review purposes, the opinions expressed in this article are wholly my own.

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Tui Snider is an author, speaker, and photographer who specializes in North Texas travel, cemetery symbols, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction – but then, I moved to Texas!”

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