Fun Home the musical is an adaptation of the "graphic memoir" (read: comic book about her life) by Alison Bechdel (yes, of the Bechdel Test). But it's more than just a simple adaptation of Alison's story. The genius of Lisa Kron's book is that it's an adaptation of the process of Alison writing her book, constructed as a memory play. We go on adult Alison's journey with her as she remembers her childhood, now in the context of what she's learned about her family since then, trying to make sense of it all and come to some sort of peace with her family's tragedies, while putting it down in writing. It's an incredibly effective, engaging, and emotional way to tell the story that makes you feel as if you're living it. And it's a pretty incredible story at that.
|Allison (Amelia Barr) with her memories of her family|
(Zachary Stofer, Reagan Kern, and Christina
Stroup-Manchester, photo courtesy of Renegade)
On Renegade's tiny stage in Zeitgeist on Superior Street in downtown Duluth, Alison's drawing desk is tucked in the front left corner of the stage, practically in the audience, from which she watches her life unfold. The seven-piece band (led by music director Paul Christenson) is crammed behind a screen at the back of the stage, from which they make some beautiful music with Jeanine Tesori's gorgeous, complex, layered score. The stage is completely bare when the show starts, and when it ends, and in between well-chosen detailed pieces that represent Alison's childhood growing up in a museum-like restored old house, and a funeral home, are wheeled on and off stage (set design by Stella Vatnsdal). This is an intimate story that is better told on a small stage (see also Dear Evan Hansen), the better to see, feel, and experience the raw and intense emotions of the piece. I don't remember crying like this when I saw it on Broadway, certainly not in the too-large Orpheum Theatre on tour.
|the Alisons (Reagan Kern, Amelia Barr, Laney Goei)|
(photo courtesy of Renegade)
Renegade's too short three-week run of Fun Home closes tomorrow and is sold out, but follow their Facebook page for the announcement of their upcoming season. I know there will be at least one that will force me to make the drive to Duluth to see it - such a burden! There's some really great theater happening in Minnesota outside of the Twin Cities, which is truly a joy to experience and discover.
*A few other regional premieres you should know about:
- The 2014 Tony winner for best musical, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, at Old Log Theatre in Excelsior in October
- The 2016 Tony nominee for best musical, Bright Star, at Lyric Arts in Anoka in September
- The 2014 Tony winner for best score (a stunning creation by Jason Robert Brown), The Bridges of Madison County, at Artistry in Bloomington in January
**Plot summary borrowed from what I wrote about the Broadway production.