Fun Home is a touching masterpiece of a musical

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn

Fun Home | Arts Club Theatre Company | Granville Island Stage | February 8 – March 10, 2018

Touching writing, a brilliant cast, and inventive staging. Fun Home is a coming-of-age musical that entertains while tugging on the heartstrings.

Alison (Sara-Jeanne Hosie) grows up in an unconventional household. Her father is a funeral home director and she, along with her two brothers, sometimes helps Dad with the family business. After she goes away to college, she has a revelation that she’s a lesbian and begins a romance with Joan (Sara Vickruck). Little does she know, her father (Eric Craig) is a closeted gay man who has been having affairs during her parents’ entire marriage. As Alison says, she “leapt out of the closet,” and four months later her father killed himself.

There are three Alison’s on stage: present day Alison who is writing a graphic novel about her childhood and watches as small Alison (Jaime MacLean) and medium Alison (Kelli Ogmundson) act out scenes from her past. Amidst this graphic novel backdrop, Alison turns her past into panels, creating captions and remembering what it all felt like. Sometimes it becomes overwhelming and she has to remind herself, “I’m remembering something that’s all.”

Alison has a complicated relationship with her father. “Sometimes my father appeared to enjoy having children,” she says in the opening scene. She loves and respects him, but realizes that he was distant, neglectful even, and that when he shamed her, saying things like “you’ll be the only girl at the party not wearing a dress,” these actions stemmed from his own inner struggles with his identity.

Despite the troubled marriage and her father’s distance, Alison and her brothers, Christian (Glen Gordon) and John (Nolen Dubuc), were happy kids — one of the highlights of the show was their “commercial” for the Fun Home (the family name for the funeral home). Their upbeat musical theatre number almost made you forget they were singing about dead bodies.

Eric’s wife, Helen, (Janet Gigliotti) chose to ignore the affairs and kept all her emotions bottled up. We finally get to hear from her and get a sense of how she feels during the touching song “Days and Days” as she talks about moving through life in denial: “like chaos never happens if it’s never seen.”

“Telephone Wire” was another beautiful song that expressed the anguish of Alison’s last conversation with her father as they drove around the countryside and she urged herself to talk to him about his secret identity.

Near the end of his life, Bruce Bechdel bought a rundown house to fix up. It serves to represent the disintegration of his own life. He loses his grip on reality and his hope for the future. As he sings about the sunlight streaming through the window onto the old parlour wall, it’s clear that he had some hope, but he questions what he’s doing with his life: “Why am I standing here?” 

There are so many tender moments that it’s hard to take them all in. The show is full of endlessly evocative songs, brilliant acting, and many funny moments such as Alison matter-of-factly writing in her childhood journal, “Dad showed me a dead body today,” her dad telling her “You learn at college that people aren’t as smart as you want them to be,” and Alison triumphantly singing “I’m changing my major to Joan” after their first night together. Fun Home is a masterpiece of a musical.

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn