‘Fun Home’ – Kauffman Centre for the Performing Arts

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For my second show review during my visit to the USA and Canada this time I’m in Kansas and had the privilege to visit the Kauffman Centre for the Performing Arts and see the award winning musical, Fun Home.  The musical is based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir and is the winner of five 2015 Tony Awards® including Best Musical.  I’d only read a few snippets about the story and hadn’t heard of it before, but had been advised to buy tickets as it has been a very popular show on Broadway and now on tour.

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One of the things that struck me about this show was how different it was from anything I’d ever seen before.  It’s absolutely not your typical ‘happy clappy’ fun and happy ending kind of a musical – we had moments of laughter but moments of shock and extreme sadness…  we saw into the lives of an American family, torn apart by a dictatorial, controlling father, who is owner of a funeral parlour (nick named Fun Home) and an English Teacher, who loved books.

 

It was really interesting to see Bruce, Alison’s father’s life, open up in layers, over the years, whilst ‘Alison’ watched on as her adult self, reminiscing about her childhood and the happy times she had with her father.  We saw Alison ‘grow’ physically, with her role being played by small, medium and adult Alison; and growing in both learning about herself and in looking back, reflecting on choices she’d made, discussions she had, and wondering ‘what if’.  We saw her coming to a sense of self realisation and in sharing those intimate moments with the audience gave us very special and brilliantly portrayed scenes using both word and movements.

It was both thought provoking and a beautiful insight into family life and all the good and bad that comes from an uncomfortable level of dysfunction all brought together with clever, witty dialogue, using repetitive, rhythmic poetry and song, with the inclusion of some lyrics in a kind of semi-spoken verse.

I loved the music; the live band at the back of the stage were discrete, yet wonderfully powerful at times; the lyrics and movement of both characters and stage set were very cleverly composed and carried out.  I loved the use of the walls, furniture and intelligent lighting; it all set the mood perfectly, especially in some of the more poignant scenes.

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I can completely understand how this musical has won so many awards; the vocal score was brilliant and there was a couple of absolute stand out moments for me through the show.  “Come to the Fun Home” – John, Christian & Small Alison, the ‘siblings’, played by Henry Boshart, Luke Barbato Smith and Carly Gold were fantastic, the dancing the vocals and the choreography – they pulled it off with magnificence – well done!!

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What a way to end a show – very atypical of musical theatre, we ended with “Flying Away (Finale)” – Alison, Medium Alison & Small Alison.  A triumph of a trio, their voices blended in fabulous harmony, they sang with heartfelt emotion and I was physically moved.  Congratulations Kate Shindle, Abby Corrigan and Carly Gold, you were a sensation!

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If you get the opportunity to see this show while it’s on tour, I would highly recommend it, tickets are available from now until December 2017 in various US States with additional tour dates to be announced soon.

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ROBERT HABERMANN: HIS WAY – The Life and Songs Of Frank Sinatra – Louth Playgoers

Friday, April 28th was something new for me.  All of the shows I’ve watched and reviewed so far have been either musical theatre or a play so to see a show that was a purely vocal performance was a little bit different.  To be honest I didn’t know what to expect from the evening. I’m not a diehard Sinatra fan, although I have a few tracks on my iPod, mostly well known songs that everyone has heard of.  But I have to say, despite not particularly looking forward to the evening, and having a few traffic problems on the way which nearly led me to turn around and go home before even getting there, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Robert Habermann took to the stage with a fabulous pianist and Musical Director, Trevor Brown, by singing one of his own numbers about the horrors of ‘mobile phones’ in theatre; very comical and definitely made the audience reach for their bags and make sure they were silent!

I couldn’t possibly name all the tracks Robert covered but during the two acts he vocalised both the songs and the life of Singer Frank Sinatra, telling stories about his time as band singer to ballad and swinging singer, and building his own record label ‘Reprise.’ It was a pleasure to hear from Robert detailing some of the highs and lows of Frank’s life, together with his wonderful musical renditions, not only of the songs that Frank made famous, but a lot of songs from his early years that aren’t quite so well known.  It was obvious that Robert had done his research and is a big fan of Sinatra, there’d be no other way of retaining so much interesting and entertaining information (without any written notes), especially the snippets about his Christmas with Ava Gardner!

Robert Habermann singer

The audience really warmed to Robert’s easy going style (representative of the Mr Sinatra style we all recognise I guess!), and they took advantage of the opportunity to join in as much as possible… even I joined in with some of the more well known songs!  It was a true delight to hear stories that gave a great insight into the legend, and with Robert’s sincere and genuine personality and beautiful vocal renditions of so many wonderful songs, the audience couldn’t fail to enjoy the evening.

Did Robert sound like Frank Sinatra? Well I shut my eyes a few times, and could easily have been transported to a little club somewhere in the heart of America in the mid 1950’s…  He has the smooth vocals, the easy style, and likeable personality that I can only imagine were typical of the Frank we are all familiar with.  Some of the songs Robert covered included Come Fly With Me,  Fly Me To The Moon, Witchcraft, You Make Me Feel So Young, Strangers In The Night , My Way, New York New York and many more.

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Robert performs many shows across the UK, click on the link here to get details of his up and coming tours and how to buy tickets.  I’ll certainly be watching out for Robert and a hopeful return to Louth Playgoers either later in 2017 or 2018, perhaps with one of his other shows, Broadway and Hollywood musicals, or MGM musicals – after all, I really have got quite enthusiastic about musical theatre!

Robert Habermann by Piano, tie (2)