Fun Home 2013
Fun Home is a musical adapted by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori from Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir of the same name. As in the book, the story concerns the father-daughter relationship between Alison Bechdel and her father Bruce Bechdel. It has been called “the first mainstream musical about a young lesbian.”
The musical was developed at the Ojai Playwrights Conference in 2009, and at the Sundance Theatre Lab and The Public Theater’s Public Lab in 2012. It opened Off-Broadway at the Public Theater in September 2013 to positive reviews. Its run was extended several times, and it ran until January 2014.
The Public Theater production of Fun Home was nominated for nine Lucille Lortel Awards (winning three, including Outstanding Musical), seven Outer Critics Circle Awards (winning Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical), three Drama League Awards, eight Drama Desk Awards, and the Off Broadway Alliance Award for Best New Musical (which it won). It was also a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, but lost to The Flick by Annie Baker. It won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical and the Obie Award for Musical Theater. 10-year-old star Sydney Lucas also won an Obie in the Performance category, becoming the youngest performer ever to win an Obie. A Broadway production is scheduled to begin previews at the Circle in the Square Theatre on March 27, 2015, with an official opening on April 19, 2015.
Writer/artist Alison Bechdel’s book Fun Home, a memoir in comics format, was published in 2006 to critical acclaim. Its subject is Alison Bechdel’s coming of age, with particular emphasis on her relationship to her father, Bruce Bechdel. Alison’s coming out as a lesbian is complicated by the revelation that Bruce had also had homosexual relationships, including encounters with males below the age of consent. Four months after Alison comes out to her parents, Bruce is killed by an oncoming truck; although the evidence is equivocal, Alison concludes that he committed suicide.
Bechdel’s book was adapted into a musical with book and lyrics by Lisa Kron and music by Jeanine Tesori. Writing in Slate, June Thomas called the play “the first mainstream musical about a young lesbian.”
Development and Production
The stage adaptation of Fun Home was developed over the course of five years. It was first workshopped as a musical at the Ojai Playwrights Conference in August 2009. A staged reading was performed at The Public Theater in 2011. (Of the cast of that staged reading, only Judy Kuhn and Beth Malone continued in their roles to the full Off-Broadway production.) The musical had another workshop as part of the Sundance Institute’s Theater Lab in July 2012, featuring Raul Esparza. Following that it ran for three weeks as part of the Public Theater’s Public Lab series in October and November 2012. On April 8, 2013, musical selections from the play were performed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, Judy Kuhn, David Hyde Pierce and others at an event for the Sundance Institute. A final Public Theater workshop was held in May 2013.
The musical’s development process entailed extensive changes and rewrites. Beth Malone said that the original workshop script “doesn’t resemble this current play at all.” In early versions, the production was structured around Bechdel’s drawings, but the creators later removed most of this element, save for one image of Bruce and young Alison which is used at the musical’s conclusion. Revisions continued through the preview period of the Off-Broadway production, requiring the actors to perform new material every night.
Fun Home premiered Off-Broadway at The Public Theater on September 30, 2013, and opened officially on October 22, 2013. Originally scheduled to run through November 3, 2013, the run was extended multiple times and the musical closed on January 12, 2014. The Public Theater production was directed by Sam Gold. Sets and costumes were by David Zinn, lighting by Ben Stanton, projections by Jim Findlay and Jeff Sugg and choreography by Danny Mefford.
In response to a controversy in which the legislature of South Carolina attempted to financially punish the College of Charleston for choosing the original graphic novel of Fun Home as a reading selection for incoming freshmen, the off-Broadway cast presented a concert of music from the play to a full house in Charleston on April 21, 2014. Alison Bechdel, Lisa Kron, Jeanine Tesori and musical director Chris Fenwick were in attendance. A Charleston reviewer described the performance as “breathtaking” and the music as “astounding”. Actor Michael Cerveris called the Charleston performances “the clearest proof I’ve ever experienced … of theatre’s enduring value to society and its exclusive capacity to bring people together”.
The musical has been set for a Broadway transfer and was scheduled to begin performances March 27, 2015, at Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theatre, with an official opening night on April 19, 2015. Sam Gold, who directed the Public Theater production, will also direct the show on Broadway, leading the Off-Broadway production team (including Zinn, Mefford and Stanton). Most of the Off-Broadway cast is scheduled to return for the Broadway production, excepting only the actors playing John and Christian Bechdel.
Characters and Original Cast
The character of Alison Bechdel is portrayed by three actors. 43-year-old “Alison” is the play’s narrator, reviewing her family and life. 19-year-old “Medium Alison” is an Oberlin student discovering her sexuality, and 8-year-old “Small Alison” is a child struggling against her father’s expectations.
The original casts are as follows:
|Character||Off-Broadway (2013)||Broadway (2014)|
|Alison Bechdel||Beth Malone|
|Bruce Bechdel||Michael Cerveris|
|Helen Bechdel||Judy Kuhn|
|Small Alison||Sydney Lucas|
|Medium Alison||Alexandra Socha||Emily Skeggs|
|Christian Bechdel||Griffin Birney||Oscar Williams|
|John Bechdel||Noah Hinsdale||Zell Morrow|
|Roy / Pete / Bobby Jeremy||Joel Perez|
In late November 2013, Alexandra Socha left the off-Broadway production for personal reasons. She was replaced in the role of Medium Alison by her understudy, Emily Skeggs. Skeggs is set to play Medium Alison in the Broadway production.
Fun Home is set in three time periods, which overlap on stage in a non-linear fashion. The first is Alison Bechdel’s childhood (“Small Alison”), when she struggles against her father Bruce’s obsessive demands in the ornate Victorian home he has restored, and begins to identify her inchoate sexuality. The second is her first year in college (“Medium Alison”), when she “leapt out of the closet”, identifying herself as a lesbian and beginning her first relationship; shortly after coming out to her parents, she learns that her father has had relationships with men, and four months later he commits suicide. The third (“Alison”), when Alison is a successful cartoonist and the same age that Bruce was when he died, shows her attempt to understand her relationship with her father, and the meaning of his life and death.
The play begins with Small Alison demanding that her father play “airplane” with her, while Bruce sorts through a box of junk and valuables he has salvaged from a barn (“It All Comes Back [Opening]”). Bruce tells the family that a visitor from the local historical society is coming, and his wife Helen prepares the house to Bruce’s demanding aesthetic standard (“Welcome to Our House on Maple Avenue”). In a phone call with her father and a journal entry, Medium Alison expresses her anxiety about starting college (“Not Too Bad”). At the Bechdel Funeral Home, Small Alison and her brothers John and Christian hide in caskets while Bruce talks to Pete, a mourning young man. The children perform an imaginary advertisement for the funeral home (“Come to the Fun Home”). Medium Alison hesitates outside the door of the college’s Gay Union, and is flummoxed when she meets Joan, a confident young dyke. Bruce shows the house off to Roy, a young man whom he has hired to do yard work. While Helen plays the piano and the children play in the next room, Bruce begins to seduce Roy (“Helen’s Etude”).
Medium Alison writes a letter to her parents, but does not mention Joan or the Gay Union. Bruce orders Small Alison to put on a dress, but she instead puts on a jean jacket and fantasizes about being a suave hero and rescuing a French mademoiselle (“Al for Short”). However, Bruce returns angrily and she puts on the dress. Medium Alison proudly tells Joan that she has written a letter to her parents telling them that she is a lesbian, but begins to second-guess herself until Joan kisses her. That night, she is excited and joyful at having had sex with Joan (“Changing My Major”).
Alison considers the connection between her coming out and her father’s death. Small Alison has a homework assignment to draw a map of places her family has lived, but Bruce takes over, drawing it the way he thinks it should look. Alison realizes that despite having traveled and lived in Europe, her father’s place of birth, life, work and death can all be placed in a small circle in Beech Creek, Pennsylvania (“Maps”). Bruce offers a ride and a beer to an underage boy. Medium Alison writes to her parents, asking for a response to her coming-out letter. Small Alison watches a television show about a family who sing together, but Bruce switches it off and starts a vicious argument with Helen. Small Alison fantasizes about her family as the happy family from the TV show (“Raincoat of Love”).
Alison remembers when Bruce took her and her brothers to New York City and stayed in a borrowed Greenwich Village apartment. After a long day, Small Alison, Christian and John settle into sleeping bags, but Bruce gets ready to go out. He tells his daughter that he’s just going out for a paper, and leaves. Medium Alison is angered by a noncommittal letter from Bruce, responding to her coming out. At a luncheonette with her father, Small Alison notices a butch delivery woman and feels an inexplicable kinship with her (“Ring of Keys”).
Medium Alison calls home to demand a more full response from her parents, and is astonished when her mother tells her that her father has had sexual relationships with men and boys. Alison explores the tensions her family was under at this time. Medium Alison returns home for vacation with Joan in tow. Helen confesses the difficulties of her life to Medium Alison (“Days and Days”). Medium Alison, Joan and Bruce have an unexpectedly pleasant evening around the piano. Bruce asks Alison if she’d like to go for a drive, and (adult) Alison realizes that Medium Alison is gone; she joins her father in the car, breaking the boundaries of time. On the drive, she and Bruce struggle to express themselves to each other (“Telephone Wire”).
Bruce, manically engaged in a new restoration project, tries and fails to find a way to hold his life together (“Edges of the World”). He steps in front of a truck and is killed. Alison, newly reconciled to her past, remembers and draws “a moment of perfect balance”: playing “airplane” with her father (“Flying Away [Finale]”).
Type & Version
|Apr 19, 2015 – Sep 10, 2016||Musical, Original||
Circle in the Square Theatre, NYC
After 26 Previews and 583 Performances
2015 Broardway Creative
Produced by Fox Theatricals *
Book by Lisa Kron
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Lyrics by Lisa Kron
Based on the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel
Musical Director: Chris Fenwick
Directed by Sam Gold
Choreographed by Danny Mefford
Scenic Design by David Zinn
Costume Design by David Zinn
Lighting Design by Ben Stanton
Sound Design by Kai Harada
* Produced by Fox Theatricals,Kristin Caskey, Mike Isaacson, Barbara Whitman, Carole Shorenstein Hays, Tom Casserly, Paula Marie Black, Latitude Link, Terry Schnuck/Jack Lane, Nathan Vernon, Elizabeth Armstrong, Jam Theatricals, Scott M. Delman
Songs and Recording, Video
Since the songs in Fun Home are closely integrated into the script, no list of songs was provided in the program. However, the following list of songs was provided in the production notes provided during a press preview on October 13, 2013:
|It All Comes Back||Full Cast|
|Welcome to our House on Maple Avenue||Helen, Small Alison, John, Christian, Bruce|
|Come to the Fun Home||Small Alison, John, Christian|
|Helen’s Etude||Helen, Bruce, Roy, Small Alison, John, Christian|
|Al for Short||Small Alison|
|Changing my Major||Medium Alison|
|Maps||Bruce, Medium Alison|
|Raincoat of Love||Cast|
|Ring of Keys||Small Alison|
|Edges of the World||Bruce|
|Flying Away (Finale)||Alison, Small Alison, Medium Alison|
The original cast recorded a cast album on December 3, 2013, which was officially released on February 25, 2014. The album opened at #2 on the Billboard Top Cast Album Chart, a remarkable feat for an Off-Broadway cast album.
The cast album has the following tracks, which include dialogue from selected scenes as well as musical numbers:
|1||It All Comes Back (Opening)||Small Alison, Bruce, Alison & Company|
|2||“Sometimes my father appeared to enjoy having children…”||Alison, Bruce & Helen|
|3||Welcome to Our House on Maple Avenue||Helen, Alison, Small Alison, Christian, John, Bruce & Roy|
|4||Not Too Bad||Medium Alison|
|5||“Just had a good talk with Dad…”||Alison, Medium Alison, Bruce, Pete, Small Alison, John & Christian|
|6||Come to the Fun Home||John, Christian & Small Alison|
|7||Helen’s Etude||Alison, Roy, Bruce, Small Alison, Helen, John, Christian & Medium Alison|
|8||“Thanks for the care package…”||Medium Alison, Joan, Small Alison & Bruce|
|9||Al for Short||Small Alison|
|10||Changing My Major||Medium Alison|
|11||“I leapt out of the closet…”||Alison, Small Alison, Bruce & Helen|
|13||“Read a book…”||Bruce, Small Alison, Alison & Helen|
|14||Raincoat of Love||Bobby Jeremy & Company|
|15||“I need more coffee…”||Alison, Bruce & Small Alison|
|16||Ring of Keys||Small Alison & Alison|
|17||“Let me introduce you to my gay dad…”||Joan, Medium Alison, Alison, Bruce & Helen|
|18||“Shortly after we were married…”||Helen & Medium Alison|
|19||Days and Days||Helen|
|20||“You ready to go for that drive?…”||Bruce & Alison|
|21||Telephone Wire||Alison & Bruce|
|22||“It was great to have you home…”||Bruce & Alison|
|23||Edges of the World||Bruce|
|24||“This is what I have of you…”||Alison|
|25||Flying Away (Finale)||Alison, Medium Alison & Small Alison|
Fun Home opened on October 22, 2013 to positive reviews. Ben Brantley of The New York Times spoke of the musical’s emotional impact, artistry and universality, calling it a “beautiful heartbreaker of a musical.” ““Fun Home” isn’t just a coming out story or a coming-of-age story. Its universality comes from its awareness of how we never fully know even those closest to us, and of the undercurrent of grown-up secrets, intuited by children, that exists to some degree in every family.” ““Fun Home” finds a shining clarity that lights up the night.” Brantley praised both writer Kron and composer Tesori for their work. Of Kron he says: “her book and resonantly precise lyrics give this show its essential spine,” and of Tesori’s score “her best and most varied score to date… [which] captures [the story’s] haunting ambiguity.” Brantley later listed Fun Home as one of his top 15 shows of 2013.
Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News called the musical “achingly beautiful” and said that it “speaks to one family and all families torn by secrets and lies.” Dziemianowicz listed Fun Home at the top of his Top 10 in Theater for 2013 list.
Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times, though mildly critical of a few of the show’s elements still was impressed with Fun Home, saying “There have been plenty of new American musicals better put together than “Fun Home,” but I can’t think of one in recent years that has touched me as much with its tender, ironic and courageous vulnerability.” He states that the show’s seeming weaknesses are part of the reason it succeeds, saying that it “gets off to a choppy start, takes unnecessary musical detours and is staged in a rough-hewn style that sometimes seems more accidental than intentional” but that it “succeeds not despite these flaws but in large measure because of them. Bechdel’s ironically self-aware and inwardly searching sensibility is honored by a musical that isn’t afraid to reveal its awkward side.”
Though less positive than Brantley, Dziemianowicz or McNulty, Miriam Krule of Slate still said “there are also moments of pure joy, and the musical shines during these.” Krule felt, however, that “it’s not clear that a musical is the best second format for the material.”
Adam Hetrick, editor-in-chief of Playbill.com, described Fun Home as “the best musical of the year”, calling it “an emotionally-packed piece of theatre, full of joy, heart, sorrow and uncomfortable reality”. Reviewing the cast album for Playbill, Steven Suskin praised Kron’s “marvelous set” of lyrics, called Tesori “a master of musical styles… [who] matches Kron’s tone with a mix of sensitivity and humor.” Suskin singled out “Days and Days” for especial praise, calling it “a staggering piece of musical theatre writing.” He also lauded the performances of Judy Kuhn (“stunning”), Michael Cerveris (“one of his finest performances ever”) and the three Alisons, Beth Malone, Alexandra Socha and Sydney Lucas (calling the last “one of the most assured child actors we’ve seen”). Suskin called Fun Home “the best musical on the New York stage of 2013 — far outclassing the competition — and … thus far the best musical of the 2013-14 season.”
New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini praised Tesori’s score as a “masterpiece”, noting that the “vibrant pastiche songs” and “varied kinds of music… a jazzy number for the young Alison in the middle of a rescue fantasy; Sondheim-influenced songs that unfold over insistent rhythmic figures and shifting, rich harmonies” come together to create “an impressively integrated entity”. Tommasini also praised the show’s ensemble numbers, calling them “complex yet texturally transparent, engrossingly dramatic.”
Anticipating the play’s move to Broadway, David Levesley of online magazine Mic heralded Fun Home ’s focus on the individual experience of a lesbian, calling it “the most daring, relentless analysis of homosexual identity on the New York stage right now.”
Awards and Nominations
|Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History||Nominated|
|Lucille Lortel Awards||Outstanding Musical||Won|
|Outstanding Director||Sam Gold||Nominated|
|Outstanding Choreographer||Danny Mefford||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical||Michael Cerveris||Won|
|Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical||Sydney Lucas||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||Noah Hinsdale||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Judy Kuhn||Won|
|Outstanding Lighting Design||Ben Stanton||Nominated|
|Pulitzer Prize for Drama||Finalist|
|New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award||Best Musical||Won|
|Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical||Won|
|Outstanding Book of a Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway)||Nominated|
|Outstanding New Score||Nominated|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Sam Gold||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Michael Cerveris||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Judy Kuhn||Nominated|
|Drama League Award||Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical||Nominated|
|Distinguished Performance Award||Michael Cerveris||Nominated|
|Obie Award||Musical Theater||Lisa Kron
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Sydney Lucas||Nominated|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Sam Gold||Nominated|
|Outstanding Music||Jeanine Tesori||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lyrics||Lisa Kron||Nominated|
|Outstanding Book of a Musical||Lisa Kron||Nominated|
|Outstanding Orchestrations||John Clancy||Nominated|
|Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical||Kai Harada||Nominated|
|Off Broadway Alliance Award||Best New Musical||Won|
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