Around a month ago, I saw this promotional poster of this musical called Fun Home which really intrigued me. I’ve never heard of this play prior to seeing the poster, but I found out based on the poster that it won Best Musical during the 69th Tony Awards (10 nominations with 5 wins), and one of the cast members is no other than Tony-award winning theatre actress Lea Salonga. I really love theatre and I’ve already seen the Manila productions of Godspell, La Cage Aux Follies, Jersey Boys, and The Normal Heart (and a couple more in Broadway, as well as the Manila show of the touring Australian cast of Wicked) so of course I bought tickets to this one too. This was also the first time I’ve seen Lea Salonga live, and obviously she is a legend here in her home country; I’ve already been a big fan of hers after listening to the soundtrack of Miss Saigon and watching her performance as Éponine in Les Miserable’s 10th Anniversary Concert, so I really wanted to see this very badly.
I invited some friends to come along, some of whom have already seen Lea Salonga in the Manila production of Cats. Despite being theatre lovers, none of us have actually heard of the play (proves that we’re not exactly experts, only enthusiasts). After doing some research, it turns out that it was based on cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir.
Despite the play’s title, it isn’t fun or light at all. It’s actually very sad and dramatic and revolves on the themes of sexuality, identity, and family. The play depicts the life of Bechdel from her childhood to early adulthood and shows her tumultuous relationship with her closeted gay father, as well as the exploration of her own sexuality during her college years. It also serves as a coming-of-age story for Bechdel in addition to being a story about family. The story is rather tragic, but carries both a humorous and melancholic atmosphere throughout the play, nobody left the theatre with a dry eye. The wonderful soundtrack consisting of funny, heartbreaking, and memorable songs courtesy of Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron also serve as a highlight of the musical, in fact it also won Best Original Score in the Tony’s. The acting was also amazing as the whole cast was great; it included another Broadway actor, Eric Kunze, who took the role of Bruce Bechdel, the 3 actors who each played Alison Bechdel, and the 3 kids who were simply astounding in their performances despite their young age.
None of us actually expected the play to be this sad, but we were not disappointed, in fact it exceeded our expectations despite already having high expectations due to the awards it won. Lea Salonga, who played Helen Bechdel, didn’t have such a big role, but her sole rendition of “Days and Days” lead to thunderous applause and all of us to sob. The 3 kids were all very funny and talented, and they served as a comic relief to the play giving it a lighthearted feel with their childlike innocence. The last scene especially was incredibly heartbreaking and I was left with goosebumps listening to the last song. It was emotional and touching, and it was all thanks to the wonderful cast and crew.
Photo courtesy of broadwayworld.com