BEWARE – THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS TO “FUN HOME”
TRIGGER WARNING – SUICIDE
Fun Home, the 2015 Tony winning best musical, is based on the 2006 graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, which in turn is based on her life. It opened Off-Broadway in September 2013, and transferred to Broadway in March 2015. It closes today, September 10th 2016. While many mourn (including myself), it still goes underrated and slightly unknown in the theatre community if you’re outside of the US. Sure, worldwide, many stageys say they’ve heard of Fun Home, but how many can say they know Fun Home? I can. Fun Home pretty much changed a huge part of me. Although at first apprehensive to listen to it, I finally gave in and now I listen to it whenever i’m on the train (I don’t know why, but apparently it’s my favourite train cast recording, alongside Dogfight). It can easily be compared to Jonathan Larson’s Rent, both in the case that they started a new generation of theatre goers.
Fun Home is set within three stages of Alison’s life, when she was a young girl around the age of 9, when she went to college, and in the present, looking back onto her life. It explores her relationship with her family, in particular her father, Bruce, as well as her coming to terms with her sexuality. Unbeknownst to her, he is also coming to terms with his sexuality, as he explores it with many men, including some of his high school students, revealed by Helen Bechdel, his wife in the song “Days And Days”
And boys – my god, some of them underage!
Alison explores her sexuality with her college lover, Joan. Joan accompanies Alison back to her family manor during spring break. Everyone gets along well, and Bruce takes Alison on a drive, with one of the most gorgeous songs in the score, “Telephone Wire”.
We also get a glimpse of young(est) Alison discovering feelings she’s never felt when she sees a delivery woman, with one of the best musical theatre songs of the decade, Ring Of Keys. Ring Of Keys was performed on the Tony Awards, and it’s such a gorgeous song. So simple but insanely well written, we can really tell how Young Alison feels.
Bruce can’t seem to live with himself, and eventually steps in front of a truck on the highway, killing himself. Alison never truly knows if he wanted to kill himself, or if it was an accident. She does come to the concluding that he did commit suicide, even though she doesn’t truly know. This is explored deeper in the book, which, by the way, is a masterpiece. I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Now back onto the musical.
Considering the short time this show ran for, it has inspired a generation of young LGBT people to come to terms with their sexuality. It’s an emotional roller coaster of a musical, and, while it can be very sad, it has its happier moments. It’s a very accurate representation of a dysfunctional family. It shows the letters sent between Bruce and Medium Alison at college. It shows the falling apart relationship between Helen and Bruce. It shows the relationship between Young Alison and her brothers, John and Christian. It shows Joan and Alison’s relationship slowly develop, with their first sexual experience in the number “Changing My Major”.
I’m gay, which means I’m not like him!
It shows Bruce and the children working their family business, the funeral home, which they appropriately nickname “Fun Home”.
It’s such a raw and realistic musical – and while I compared it to Rent, which is, at times, realistic, it’s nowhere near as real. Its simple orchestrations really set the tone very well. It’s not trying to ham it up, it’s not meant to be a comedy. Or a rock opera, or anything it’s not. It’s a family musical, but a new kind of family musical. And while there are other musicals that deal with sexuality quite well, (Rent, Kinky Boots, The Rocky Horror Show) they can’t come close to the awesome work of Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s beautiful book and score.
And that, in my opinion, is why Fun Home is one of the best musicals to date.