Thursday, April 13, 2017

Day 206 PNC Broadway Pittsburgh/Fun Home –Tackling Real Life but Soaring

"Fun Home" is not like any other musical that I have ever experienced. It’s not a musical where: “boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, and they sing  catchy show tunes that reverberate in your head  for  days”.  After this show,  it was  not the songs that played in my head, but the characters’ pain and joy  expressed through the music.   One  character (Alison) soars after she  openly  comes to terms with the fact that she is a  lesbian, while her  father (Bruce) self destructs from a  life  of  hiding that he is gay.  This musical  tackles real life family issues and is emotionally powerful  entertainment. 

Alison as adult, college student, and child 

The musical is based on Alison Bechdal's graphic novel , which is a memoir of her childhood in rural Pennsylvania.   Alison, a lesbian cartoonist, looks back on her childhood, oftentimes with humor,  as she tries to make sense of her father’s suicide. We see Alison as a child, college student, and  an adult.  The show opens with young Alison asking her dad to play with her  in the song, “"It All Comes Back to Me".  They play airplane as she balances on his feet being launched in the air.  Early  on you can feel  the special bond between them.

 Bruce is a high school English teacher/funeral director.  His emotional outlet is the  historical restoration of their  museum- like home.  Alison and her two brothers seem to  have had a fun childhood. They call their funeral  home, “Fun Home” as they  play like typical kids  and  make an imaginary commercial  for the business when performing, “Come to the Fun Home”.
Alison and her brothers singing "Come to the Fun House "

The play gives the audience a positive perspective of self - discovery.  You feel Alison’s childhood excitement when  she identifies with  an “old school butch” woman as she sings, “Ring of Keys".  She energetically  remembers, “your swagger, your bearing, the just right clothes you're wearing, your short hair, your dungarees, your lace up boots and oh..your ring of keys.” You also feel Alison's revelation during her humorous first time sexual experience with a woman in college.

In contrast, throughout the play  Bruce struggles to hide his sexuality. He has  creepy interactions with young boys  and sneaks out at night in NYC to meet men.  His wife knows and you wonder why  they stayed together.  She  sings about how regretfully life's tasks kept her occupied  in the song “Days and Days”.      

This play is emotional. The characters and the music  draw you closer to them. You hardly realize that the  90 minutes passed without an intermission.  Fun Home produces emotional understanding of how isolating it must be to live a  lie and  and how freeing it is to soar with the truth.

("Fun Home" runs from April 11 through April 16 at Heinz Hall as part of the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh Series by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust  )

Other Sources
Fun Home (musical) tickets
Fun Home (novel)
It All Comes Back (Opening)