Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of The Little Prince
Fun Home is based on Alison Bechdel's autobiographical graphic novel of the same name, attempting to make sense of her family life; her closeted gay father killed himself just as she was coming out of the closet with a vengeance. The idea of making a musical of this material strikes me as quixotic at best, but Ms. Tesori and Ms. Kron have succeeded. It is very moving and of course will appeal to the LGBT community, of which I am a proud member. The role of Alison is split into parts for three actresses, who offer different emotional perspectives from various ages. This is definitely a musical that takes wing on its music, much of it integrated into the storytelling.
New York's Circle in the Square was likely a perfect choice for this intimate musical: the in-the-round setting could bring the audience closer in to the action and the limited seating capacity would also be a good fit. Carol Morsani Hall at Tampa's Straz Center for the Performing Arts is a barn, swallowing much larger shows. Fun Home is not ideally situated in this venue. Seated midway in the orchestra, I felt like I lost some of the emotional connection that might have been.
Kate Shindle leads the very strong cast as Alison, Carly Gold plays Small Alison, and Abby Corrigan plays Medium Alison. The chemistry among them is so strong that, aided by well written material, they are credible as the same character at different stages of life. All three have really strong voices and the finale, "Flying Away," is just thrilling. Robert Petkoff is Alison's father Bruce, full of conflicting, darting emotions mostly due to his secret life. He conveys the warmth he feels to his children, even while the churning emotions make it difficult for him to connect on a deep level. Petkoff's performance is vocally very strong, and equally so in the non musical moments. Susan Moniz is Helen, Alison's mother. The role is a bit thankless, as she keeps fading into the background, but she delivers in the character's big moment, the song "Days and Days." Victoria Janicki scores as Alison's more confident love interest Joan, and Robert Hager handsomely fills the roles of several young men who cross Bruce's path. Luke Barbato Smith is Christian, while Henry Boshart is John, Alison's brothers. The trio of the two boys and Young Alison dance up a storm in a re-creation of a commercial they made for the Bechdel Funeral Home. The entire cast seems as good vocally as their New York counterparts, based on the Off Broadway and Broadway cast albums.
Director Sam Gold keeps the swirling action nicely in focus, and Danny Mefford's choreography aids him in that. The adaptation for the tour is well done, the only problem being the size of the houses the show is booked into on the road.
Fun Home, through December 3, 2017, at Carol Morsani Hall, Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. W.C. MacInnes Place, Tampa FL. For tickets and information, visit www.strazcenter.org.
Cast (in order of appearance):