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The Tony Award-winning Best Musical of 2015, FUN HOME, has made its way to Orange County. This one-of-a-kind beauty has been capturing the hearts and souls from its very beginnings. With a start that came from an in the round theater experience to a now traveling Broadway masterpiece, FUN HOME takes an intimate show and turns it into an immersive theater-going event. Keeping a sense of rawness and truthfulness, this impactful story delivers a life-lesson no matter your background. If you were on the fence before, leap off and head to Segerstrom Center for the Arts before this show skips town.
Marked as a true story, this enlightening musical follows the graphic memoir’s of Alison Bechdel. This awkward, corky yet endearing cartoonist grows up in a not-so-fun home who later comes to the realization of her own sexuality once she leaves for college. Captioning much the show, Alison is portrayed from three ages with the eldest narrating as well as reliving her past. She remains onstage throughout the entire show investigating her past to understand the life of her father.
Titled after the families nickname for their funeral home business, the “fun home” pun plays as a euphemism for the aspirations they have for their life at home, but is indeed a far cry from this. With a song that’s reminiscent of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” to a playful banter that is familiar to that of the Partridge Family, it’s evident that the Alison’s family lives in a denial of their tribulations within their own home.
The Bechdel’s include an on-edge and temperamental father, Bruce, who’s clearly keeping his troubles suppressed from his family including his overly forgiving wife, Helen. The mother of three children has turned a blind eye to her husbands double life, but the two remain a partially bi-polar mix for their three kids. While the two boys seem to live a semi-normal childhood, the show stays with Alison as she questions to understand the story behind her verbally abusive father that never admits his secret.
This emotionally powered production is highlighted by its talented, well-rounded cast. With a cast of a mere ten people (three of them children), it’s important for them all to balance out each other as well as ensure no one outshines another. In this case, everyone complemented the other to perfection. The three kids including small Alison, played by the delightful CARLY GOLD, were all exuberant! Never seeming to miss a beat or a note, the three delivered a performance that was equal to their senior counterparts.
The narrating eldest, played by KATE SHINDLE, must have a presence that at times is subtle and at others carry its own. Shindle absolutely nailed the shows showstopper, “Telephone Wire”. In fact, I felt this performance was more solid than the recorded album version. The dad is played by ROBERT PETKOFF and has a voice as soft and and spine-tingly as that of the Broadway casts recording yet plays to his angry side as well as his happy side. Helen, the mother, is brilliantly played by SUSAN MONIZ and floored me with her solo “Days and Days”.
However, while I state everyone balanced each other superbly, there is one performance that still stands out above the rest. Medium (college-aged) Alison, ABBY CORRIGAN, delivered a performance so real, so believable, that her awkward moments makes you feel as uncomfortable as her character appears to be onstage. Her performance of “Changing My Major” wasn’t just beautiful, but the comedy that comes along with it was so down right funny that I had to silence myself from laughter. Her comedic timing, slight socially awkward twitch and overall demeanor felt as though it wasn’t acting we were experiencing, but rather Alison’s actual life.
These performances along with the storytelling musical accompaniment bring this 100 minute show without intermission to an end too soon. Its rather simplistic set to its creative change in scenery toward the middle help encompass the show around the actors opposed to the scenery. FUN HOME plays out more like a play instead of a typical Broadway musical. And for this, we can focus on its content opposed to the next big scene change.
FUN HOME focuses on self-discovery along with a larger, deeper discussion that most of us can relate with. As some may suspect this show to appeal solely to the LGBTQ community, its theme of “say something” truly can relate to everyone. The show undoubtably will hit home to many, and possibly too close for some others. While the show deals with tough themes that those who have experienced first and second hand finding themselves unable to fight back the tears from pouring, it remains an incredible important message to society! It’s a timely sensitive subject that can no longer be dismissed. What is considered a dim and bleak ending of a life, FUN HOME offers an optimistic future that something can be done. Our world does not have to be so evil to so many. We must open our hearts, our minds, as well as provide the means for others to speak to an listening audience, a family.
FUN HOME is now playing at Segerstrom Center for the Arts thru August 6th.
Visit SCFTA.org for more information.