“Fun Home”: A totally original new musical about sexual identity and family (at The 5th Avenue Theatre now through July 30)

Guest review by Molly Fortin:

Yes, it’s got “fun” in the name, but when you learn that “Fun Home” is short for funeral home, the family business of protagonist Alison Bechdel, and that the musical explores her family tragedy, you might think it’s an ironic title. Admittedly, after reading Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir which the show is based on, I was expecting intelligent, complex, and moving. I wasn’t expecting “fun.”

That’s why the eruptions of laughter at The 5th Avenue Theatre on opening night came as such a welcome surprise. Lisa Kron’s book and lyrics, Jeanine Tesori’s music, and Sam Gold’s direction wring this family tragicomic for every emotion – with three humorous moments to offset every poignant one.

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I love a show that makes me laugh, and one that moves along quickly. With a 1 hour 40 minute running time and no intermission, Fun Home hums along as quickly as the pages of a good graphic novel.

I had wondered how the musical´s creators would solve the problem of integrating Alison´s stories at many different points throughout her life, and so I was delighted with the inventive staging. Three actors play Alison throughout the musical, often all on stage at once, but Abby Corrigan as the adolescent Medium Alison steals the show. She immediately wins over the audience with her painfully sincere, awkward interactions with university co-eds as she comes into her own as a lesbian. She’s so cute and funny as she prances around the dorm room in boyish tighty whities singing “I’m changing my major to Joan.”

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Lately, I’ve been loving WNYC’s Nancy, frank conversations about the LGBTQ experience (“because everyone’s a little bit gay…”). The podcast featured one woman who was suddenly transported back to her own childhood while listening to Fun Home’s “Ring of Keys,” Small Alison’s ballad about recognizing herself in a butch delivery woman.

It’s so refreshing to hear diverse stories and experiences and to see them come alive on the musical theater stage in new, inventive ways.

“Fun Home” plays The 5th Avenue Theatre in downtown Seattle now through July 30. Tickets here.

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