By Heidi Sutton
When “Fun Home” opened Off-Broadway at the Public Theater in September 2013, it was so popular its run was extended several times. When the production closed on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre in 2016 after an 18-month run, it had already made an indelible impression on the world, winning five Tonys, including Best Musical.
Now, making its Long Island premiere, the award-winning musical has taken up residence at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts through Oct. 20.
Based on the 2006 best-selling graphic memoir “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the show, with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, features Alison at three stages of life: as a 10-year-old child (a shared role played by Lorelai Mucciolo on opening night/Gabby Blum); a college student at Oberlin (Lisa Naso); and as a 43-year-old (Jacqueline Hughes). The latter Alison narrates the show as she attempts to add captions to her cartoon panels.
Told through flashbacks, Alison shares memories of growing up in a dysfunctional home in a small town in Pennsylvania with her two brothers, Christian (Dylan O’Leary/Jonathan Setzer) and John (Kieran Brown/Brayden E. Bratti). Both of her parents, Helen (Stephanie Moreau) and Bruce (Dennis Creighton) are teachers and her father is also a mortician, running the Bechdel Funeral Home (the children called it the “Fun Home” for short). As the years pass, Alison discovers her own sexuality and the secret life of her closeted gay father. As an adult, she struggles to unlock the mysteries surrounding his tragic death three months after she comes out (“I had no way of knowing that my beginning was your end.”) It is as intimate as storytelling gets with a poignancy and vulnerability that is raw and emotional.
Accompanied by a seven-member band led by Melissa Coyle, the songs are the heart of the show. All of the numbers, including Mucciolo’s beautiful rendition of “Ring of Keys,” the three children’s Jackson 5 inspired “Come to the Fun Home,” the hilarious “Changing My Major (to sex with Joan)” by Naso, the soulful “Days and Days” by Moreau, the moving “Telephone Wire” by Hughes and the heartbreaking “Edges of the World” by Creighton, are perfectly executed.
Director Kenneth J. Washington has assembled a talented team of the utmost caliber to produce a show that is exemplary. From the actors to the musicians to the choreographer to the set and costume designers, their hard work and dedication has resulted in an incredible evening of live theater and a well-deserved standing ovation on opening night.
Enter “Fun Home” with an open mind and experience the magic of this musical production. You’ll want to see it again and again.
The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown closes out its 2017-18 season with “Fun Home” through Oct. 20. Running time is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. For mature audiences. Tickets are $38 adults, $34 seniors, $25 students. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.
Photos by Courtney Braun/Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts