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.
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.
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!!
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!
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.