Rating: 4.5/5 stars
As my sister would say, this show gave me "all the feels." This show is about looking back to what things meant to you as a child, what it's like to leave your family home and find your voice, and what it's like to see your parents as people with alllll their flaws. It does what so many shows aim to do and fail: make you think about your own life and your own family and pull on all the right emotional strings. It is absolutely the best story of this season and with performances that are untouchable.
I attended Fun Home this past Friday night because I've heard incredible things and it's one of the best musical nominees this year. It's playing at the Circle in the Square theater which is very small and intimate. It has a "thrust stage" which means it is surrounded by the audience on all four sides but still has a backstage area through a raised exit. Hard to describe if you haven't been there, so look it up! Fun Home is based on Alison Bechdel's graphic novel about her life. She's a well-known cartoonist and very vocal lesbian. She created the "Bechdel test" which I recommend everyone start using. A movie/show/book only passes the Bechdel test if: 1. it has at least two women with names, 2. they talk to each other, 3. they talk about something other than a man. Almost half of all films fail the test...but anyways. I think I read somewhere that this may be the only musical where the protagonist is a lesbian, or at least it's one of a very small few.
The story follows Alison in her family home growing up with two younger brothers, her mom, and her dad. Her dad does a lot of things but also runs the local funeral home (or "fun home"). Young Alison is played by Sydney Lucas, and as someone who generally hates child actors, I think she is AMAZING. She absolutely should win best featured actress. Then medium Alison (their word, not mine) is at Oberlin College realizing she's a lesbian and learning that her family is falling apart and has been for awhile. Grown-up Alison, a beautifully comfortable in her own skin Beth Malone, narrates the show and follows herself through important memories. But for me...Michael Cerveris Michael Cerveris MICHAEL CERVERIS. Holy CRAP. He's plays the emotionally abusive dad in the most tortured but loving way. 100% deserves the best actor Tony this year.
As a kid Alison sees her dad as this amazing guy who does all these interesting things. She looks up to him and wants to please him. In college the pedestal starts to crumble when her dad admonishes her against calling herself "a lesbian" and she learns from her mother that her dad has affairs with men, mostly very young, in secret and has for a long time. Alison's last trip home before her father kills himself (this is not a spoiler, they tell you in the first scene), she sees how damaged and lifeless her mother is after a marriage filled with so many lies and so much pain. Alison tries to talk to her dad about who they both really are, but neither are able to say anything.
So I must admit, I definitely shed some tears in this show. And not just because this was a beautiful story with insanely talented actors, it's because this show makes you think about when you were a kid and you thought you understood things but really you had no idea. It makes you think about that moment when you realize your parents are real people and don't have anything figured out either. That conversation when you're giving your parents advice and support and a little bit of innocence is lost. When you realize that your identity is now completely your own and no one is there to pave the way for you. And there was something I can't relate to yet, but I thought a lot about how parents want so much for their children and put so much of their life force into raising them that after the children leave, there seems to be a deflation of who they are. And especially for these parents, they didn't have to hold up the charade anymore.
I think my only complaint of the show, which would have been 5/5 otherwise, was the music. Yes, it was absolutely lovely to listen to, but I can't hum a single tune or sing a single lyric from the show. I actually thought a lot about whether it would have been better as a straight play than a musical, and I think it should be a musical because music elevates the emotions, but I don't know if these songs really got me there. And there were a few happy-go-lucky songs that were fun but seemed a bit out of place. The score was nominated, and it should be, but for me it wasn't enough.
This story is wonderful and so needed and these actors are some of the best I have EVER seen. Please go see this show; I promise you'll love it.
Who should see this show:
- If you didn't have a perfect childhood (so...pretty much everyone)
- If finding your identity in college, or whenever it was, was a big turning point in your life
- If you want to feel touched, moved, or inspired
How to get tickets (every seat is a great seat):
- $75 on Telecharge: https://www.telecharge.com/Broadway/Fun-Home/Ticket
- $32 digital lottery on the TodayTix app (free app, free to enter)