THEATER | DANCE | CLASSICAL MUSIC | OPERA | COMEDY

NORTH TEXAS PERFORMING ARTS NEWS

REVIEWS

The tour of&nbsp;<em>Fun Home</em>&nbsp;

Review: Fun Home | AT&T Performing Arts Center | Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House


The Heart in Home

The tour of Fun Home at AT&T Performing Arts Center reveals that the show is a successful adaptation of a literary masterpiece.



published Friday, September 15, 2017

Photo: Joan Marcus
The tour of Fun Home 

 

Dallas — Occasionally—every decade or so—a masterpiece of literary narrative successfully morphs into a Broadway musical: witness Man of La Mancha, Les Misérables, Candide, Big River, or, lowering the bar for “literary masterpiece” a little, Show Boat and South Pacific. Likewise, sometimes a comic strip makes its way to a decent run on the Great White Way (and subsequent touring and revival), as in Annie, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and, reaching back half a century, Li’l Abner.

The latest addition to both of those lists, the musical adaptation by playwright-lyricist Lisa Kron and composer Jeanine Tesori of Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home, ran for a healthy 16 months on Broadway during 2015-16, won a Tony for Best Musical, Best Book for a musical, and Best Score. It finally arrived, in its touring production, in Dallas this week at the Winspear Opera House on the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Broadway Series.

Yes, Bechdel’s original work is a masterpiece, innovative yet anchored securely in the literary tradition, and destined for a place in the canon both for its innovation and profundity. Like any literary masterpiece, it expands the personal into the universal: young Alison’s complex relationship and her hard-won self-realization of lesbian sexuality parallels the cultural and sexual evolution concurrent in the 1970s and 1980s across America and Europe. Her father’s burdened and closeted homosexuality, expressed through his compulsive personality disorder, verbal abuse of family members, and criminal involvement with underage boys, reflects the other side of that coin as experienced by homosexuals of the generation preceding Alison’s.

Photo: Joan Marcus
The tour of Fun Home 

Even for families in which sexual identity is not an issue, the struggle to present a respectable façade in the face of family dysfunction is, of course, practically a national epidemic in the United States, mirrored on a larger scale in our political life, making Fun Home, in both of its manifestations, a profound distillation of our culture. On top of all that, along with strikingly complex and believable character development, the original book provides, as a bonus, a gold mine of hundreds of meaningful literary allusions, ranging from Anna Karenina to the Icarus myth to The Wind in the Willows.

So, what comprises success for a musical adaptation of literary masterpiece? Certainly not comprehensiveness. Whether dealing with Don Quixote or Peanuts, the script and music of a musical adaptation must aim for the essence, grabbing only a small percentage of the details of the source, often sacrificing what might be regarded as essential in the interest of concentrating major themes and ideas into somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 minutes.

The musical Fun Home focuses, as does the book, on the stumbling but determined and ultimately victorious blossoming of young Alison, painfully mirrored in her father’s tragic descent into self-destruction. Playwright Kron gives us three versions of Alison: the boundlessly energetic, creative, and curious youngster, played by Carly Gold with appropriate innocent energy and well-projected pre-adolescent soprano voice; the college-aged Alison, a role to which Abby Corrigan brings a high, light voice and a meaningful quasi-post-adolescent awkwardness; and the grownup Alison, played in this production with a knowing presence and a rich, mature contralto by Kate Shindle.

The grownup Alison observes throughout, and steps into the story line only near the end for a final, quietly desperate attempt to find a deeper relationship with her father. Equally impressive as the three Alisons, Robert Petkoff creates in Bruce, Alison’s father, the tension of a man torn between his sexual identity on one hand and small town respectability as a funeral director and English teacher on the other. Vocally, Petkoff neatly nails the high notes composer Tesori hands him at key moments. Susan Moniz owns the most strikingly beautiful voice among the principals, and creates empathy for a woman forced into a position of cold acceptance. Robert Hager handsomely portrays multiple roles of various of Bruce’s sexual partners, with the cool presence of a masculine man who doesn’t mind being seduced by another man; Victoria Janicki is college-aged Alison’s first girlfriend.  All of these characters move smoothly and realistically cross the decades under director Sam Gold.

The interweaving passage, back and forth across years of family life—a strategy borrowed from Bechdel’s original text—revolves visually, in designer David Zinn’s sets, around an ornate Victorian couch, representing both Bruce Bechdel’s obsession with historical design and the family’s complex, anachronistic self-image.

Tesori’s score represents the best and most up-to-date Broadway tradition, with a small, onstage orchestra. Tesori knows her way around clean counterpoint and resonant harmonies, meaningful recurring motifs (including a short, oft-repeated eight-note snippet), and easy-on-the-ear lyricism. The upbeat title song “Come to the Fun Home,” in which young Alison and her two brothers pretend to produce a jolly advertisement for the family funeral home, is the most memorable number in the show; though on the surface it slightly jars with the plotline, it epitomizes the theme of the resilience and natural joy of children in the face of a grim family life—and actually represents a real-life survival strategy Alison and her siblings employed in the midst of life with an abusive father who ran a funeral home. The traditional romantic waltz, once a requirement for any Broadway score, reemerges in the form of the dizzying swirl of the lesbian love song “I’m Changing my Major”; another musical and dramatic high point arrives with “Helen’s Etude,” in which Helen quietly, desperately practice the piano while refusing to notice that Bruce is seducing a young man in another part of the house. In terms of lyrical innovation, the sweetly innocent but instinctively wise “Ring of Keys” breaks new ground, presenting the young Alison as she sees an “old school butch” and, to herself, admits her admiration and delight that such a person exists.

No Broadway musical can totally capture the power of a literary masterpiece; Kron and Tesori’s adaptation absolutely succeeds in presenting the joy, pain, and sheer humanity of Bechdel’s vision, and does so in with unfailingly entertaining, engaging, sophisticated, and often heart-grabbing style.

 

» At the Friday, Sept. 15 performance of Fun Home, there will be a Facebook Live Q&A with the cast of Fun Home, from 6 to 6:30 p.m., hosted by B.J. Cleveland. Thanks For Reading





Dates, Prices, & Other Details

View the Article Slideshow

Comment on this Article

Share this article on Social Media
Click or Swipe to close
The Heart in Home
The tour of Fun Home at AT&T Performing Arts Center reveals that the show is a successful adaptation of a literary masterpiece.
by Wayne Lee Gay

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Snowflakes Watertower Theatre Blue Candlelight Application Pending Ballet Frontirs of Texas John Uptown Players Texas In Paris UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Click or Swipe to close
reviews
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
audiocasts
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
contests
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
crowdfunding
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
studio
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web



Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:


Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:


TheaterJones Section:


Category:
Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Search
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  



Your Name:
Your Email Adress:


please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :
Submit