The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review
Fun Home

It all comes back, it all comes back, it all comes back
There's you
And there's me
But now I'm the one who's 43
and stuck
I can't find my way through
Just like you
Am I just like you?

— From the opening number in which Alison, the narrator and Greek chorus character of this musical, pulls items out of a trunk of stuff saved from the treasures her father collected.
Fun Home
Sydney Lucas and Michael Cerveris (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)
When it comes to musicals, the Public Theater doesn't do sure fire crowd pleasers like Wicked and Pippin and the granddaddy of Broadway hits, Phantom of the Opera. But it's a safe bet, that any musical you see there will dare to be different, even if that's likely to limit its audience appeal. Fun Home, a musical memoir based on an autobiographical graphic novel by Alison Bechdel is an even more unusual enterprise than some recent Public Theater musicals.

It's the story of a Lesbian artist reflecting on her coming of age in Beech Creek, Pa, the middle child and only girl in a family in which true feelings were never open for discussion. In her father Bruce's case that meant his being Gay was sublimated by obsessively fixing up the family home into a museum or "fun home." The Bechdel kids also grew up around another "fun home"— the family business, a funeral home that Bruce manages when not antiquing, renovating or teaching English at the town's high school.

Not an easy story to translate into a musical. But Kron and Tesori have found an effective device to tell this sometimes funny but often painful coming of age story: They've created three Alisons to make sense of a seemingly normal small town family whose unresolved, undiscussed dysfunction is the result of a brilliant, complex father's obsessive-compulsive behavior.

There's the adult Alison, who's a stand-in for the author. As she journeys into the recesses of her memory to help her create the images and captions for her memoir, this 43-year-old Alison becomes the show's Greek-Chorus/Narrator. As she digs into the inner recesses of her mind, images and memories become concrete. We meet not just her brothers and parents but two younger versions of herself: a "small" or 8-year-old Alison and after a while, a "medium" or 19-year-old Alison. But dominating the family and Alison's memories is the stubbornly impenetrable father.

Under Sam Gold's smooth and subtle direction Alison's story seamlessly shifts from her drawing table to vividly reenacted scenes from her unusual childhood. Tesori's lovely score includes songs for the happier as well as darker moods. All are tightly integrated into the script, which probably accounts for the absence of a song list in the program as is usually the case for operas and sung-through musicals. (A list of songs is included with the production notes).

From Beth Malone with her butch haircut to Joel Perez in several roles the entire ensemble is excellent. But as Bruce and the spunky 8-year-old Alison are the linchpin characters, the actors who play them are also the show's standout performers. For Michael Cerveris, this is one more star turn. Though he's at first almost unrecognizable in a neat blonde wig, his silky singing voice is instantly familiar. Sydney Lucas, who's too young to match Cerveris's impressive resume, is terrific as "small" Alison whose sexual preferences will remain dormant until she goes off to college as "medium" Alison (Alexandra Socha).

Right from the beginning we see Bruce as someone who seems to enjoy his children and family life but is also a demanding and controlling tyrant. His true love is clearly the house into which he pours all his suppressed passion.

The inconsistently fun and affectionate father is evident in a scene when Bruce lifts up little Alison in a game of airplane, but quickly loses interest and unceremoniously drops her while she's eager to continue the game. His imposing his wishes and interests on the family is potently illustrated in a scene when they're enlisted to make the spectacular house even more so for a visit from a woman who is interested in making it part of a house tour. Kron's lyrics for "Come to the "Fun Home" sum up the essence of how this family functions or rather dysfunctions: "See how we polish and we shine/We rearrange and realign/ Everything is balanced and serene/Like chaos never happens if it's never seen."

Kron's smart and unforced rhyming lyrics and Tesori's melodic score include the kids a catchy commercial for the kids to lighten Bruce's inexplicable eerie summoning "small" Alison to hand him a scissor with a Jackson Five style commercial for this their second fun home ("We take dead bodies ev'ry day of the week so/You've got no reason to roam/Use the Bechdel Funeral Home").

The accummulation of unexpressed feelings are most devastatingly on display in a scene where Bruce brings Roy (one of several small parts by Joel Perez) home ostensibly to help with the yard work, and Judy Kuhn's Helen looks at them knowingly but, as she's done for all the years of her marriage, says nothing. Instead we see a triptych of images: Bruce and Roy. . .the kids watching TV. . . and Helen at the grand piano in a ballad that's a heartbreaking recap of all the years of her marriage ("Days made of bargains I made because I thought as a wife/I was meant to. . .").

David Zinn's sliding and gliding props and Ben Stanton's lighting simply and effectively accommodate the scene to scene shifts (Zinn does double duty as costume designer, most notably for Ceveris's Bruce). Bright and peppy, or mournful, Tesori's score has some hauntingly beautiful moments. Unfortunately, the six musicians tend to overwhelm the singing. They're fine when quietly underscoring the wordless scenes and scene changes but it's a shame that the instruments too often drown out the lyrics. This may be due the use of what's usually the Newman Theater's front row for a makeshift pit that puts them right before and almost on a level with the actors. It also may be mostly a problem for audiences sitting further back than the first five or six rows.

Not having read Bechdel's book, I can't really compare the stage to the book version. However, I can say that familiarity with the source is not needed to follow this musical version of the author-artist's journey to understanding herself and her father. It's not a journey geared to mass-market audiences, but one open-minded, adventurous musical theater lovers will not want to miss.

Fun Home
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Book and Lyrics by Lisa Kron based on the Alison Bechdel book
Directed by Sam Gold
Cast: Griffin Birney (Christian), Michael Cerveris(Bruce),Roberta Colindrez (Joan), Noah Hinsdale (John),Judy Kuhn (Helen),Sydney Lucas (Small Allison), Beth Malone (Allison), Joel Perez (Roy and other), Alexandra Socha (Medium Allison)
Sets and costumes: David Zinn
Lighting: Ben Stanton
Sound: Kai Harada
Projection design: Jim Findlay and Jeff Sugg
Wig design: Paul Huntley
Music direction: Chris Fenwick

Choreography: Danny Mefford
Orchestrations: John Clancy
Stage Manager: Lisa Dawn Cave
Musicians: Emily Brausa- Cello, Monica Davis -Violin/Viola, Doug Derryberry -Guitar, George Farmer - Bass, John Hadefield- Drums, Chris Fenwick- Conductor/Keyboard)
Running Time: Approx. 1 hour and 40 minutes, without intermission
Public Theater 420 Lafayette Street
From 10/01/13;opening 10/22/13; closing 1/12/14
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at October 13th press preview
Musical Numbers
  • It All Comes Back (Opening)- Full Cast
  • Welome to our House on Maple Avenue-- Helen, Small Allison, John, Chrstian, Bruce
  • Come to the Fun Home-- Small Allison, John, Christian
  • Helen's Etude-Helen, Bruce, Roy, Small Allison, John, Christian
  • Al for Short-Small Alison
  • Changing my Major-Medium Alison
  • Maps-Bruce, Medium Alison
  • Raincoat of Love-Cast
  • Pony Girl - Bruce
  • Ring of Keys- Small Alison
  • Edges of the World- Bruce
  • FlyingAway (Finale)-Alison, Small Alison, Medium Alison
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Fun Home
  • I disagree with the review of Fun Home
  • The review made me eager to see Fun Home
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message. If you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
The New Similes Dictionary
New Similes Dictionary

Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows- view 1st episode free

Book Of Mormon MP4 Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show

©Copyright 2013, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from