(COVER PHOTO: Chuck Grigaitis and Grace Olah in a scene from the musical "Fun Home" from WCLOC at the Jean McDonough Arts Center (JMAC) BrickBox Theater in Worcester, MA. through May 1, 2022. Photo by Mike Hendrickson)
By Kevin T. Baldwin
"A House Warming Musical"
Written by Jeanine Tesori, Lisa Kron, and Alison Bechdel
Directed by Eric Butler
Music Directed by Lenny McGuire
Choreographed by Denise Day
Cast Includes: Liz Couture, Grace Olah, Jess Guertin, Lexi Meunier, Chuck Grigaitis, Linnea Lyerly, Henry Cron, Lucas Claydon, Michael Skrzek
April 29 & 30, 2022 at 7:30pm
April 30 & May 1, 2022 at 2:00pm
IMPORTANT: Performances to be held at Jean McDonough Arts Center (JMAC) BrickBox Theater
After a two year wait due to the COVID-19 resulting absence of theatre, Worcester County Light Opera Company (WCLOC) finally is able to present “Fun Home” a multi-layered musical drama that provides a major emotional impact, literally bringing tears to more than a few eyes.
Directed by Eric Butler, with music direction by Lenny McGuire and choreography by Denise Day, the musical is based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic novel and memoir.
“Fun Home” originally won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical and, with this latest staging by Butler and his fine cast, follows the character of “Alison” through three significant phases in her life.
Throughout the story, set in the 1970s and as written by Jeanine Tesori, Lisa Kron, and Alison Bechdel, the audience experiences Bechdel’s evolution as she shares memories that celebrate different stages of her life:
We witness Bechdel's initial queerness feelings emerge during childhood (through "Small Alison" as played by Grace Olah), the challenges of those "feelings" as full realization as she comes out during her college years (as seen in the character of "Medium Alison" as played by Jess Guertin) and the complexities of family and the revelation of seeing one’s parents through the eyes of Alison as an adult (as played by Liz Couture).
Thanks to the writing and Butler's direction, this fine collection of "Alisons" blended so well they were immediately believable as the one central character.
(PHOTO: Grace Olah, center, surrounded by the CAST of "Fun Home" from WCLOC at the Jean McDonough Arts Center (JMAC) BrickBox Theater in Worcester, MA. through May 1, 2022. Photo by Mike Hendrickson )
Olah performs a magnificent rendition of the musical's most noted song, "Ring of Keys," as Small Alison recalls a first crush. Guertin, similarly, does an admirable job with the song about Medium Alison describes her first real love in the song "Changing My Major."
While the musical not only shines a light on Alison’s emergence and ultimate embrace of her own sexuality, she simultaneously deals with a very disappointing and “counter-productive” relationship with her troubled father, Bruce (Chuck Grigaitis), who is shown to have endured a multitude of demons after decades suppressing his own queer identity.
As tormented as Bruce was, his wife, Helen (Linnea Lyerly), found herself in the position of sharing in the concealment of her husband's closeted gay life which culminates in her own torment which she describes in the moving number, "Days and Days."
Music Director Lenny McGuire assembled a fine pit which performed the musical's complex score to perfection.
There were a couple of vocal mis-steps heard during a couple of the group numbers, where some members went a little off pitch, but otherwise the vocal performances were solid throughout.
Choreography by Denise Day for the musical's few actual "dance numbers" (like in the fun, upbeat song, "Raincoat of Love") perfectly accentuated the rest of the show's blocking provided by Butler.
The impressive set was not quite minimal but certainly had an abstract quality to it. It was a wonderful design by Ed Savage.
(PHOTO: Chuck Grigaitis and Grace Olah in a scene from the musical "Fun Home" from WCLOC at the Jean McDonough Arts Center (JMAC) BrickBox Theater in Worcester, MA. through May 1, 2022. Photo by Mike Hendrickson )
At a run time of 100 minutes and no intermission, not one second is wasted as we become absolutely absorbed in Bechdel's poignant tale and deeply moving recollections.
It is a show not just about a young girl, not just about her sexual identity, not just abut her family's acceptance and/or denial of her emergence - it is more about love itself in every aspect.
So, absolutely "find your way to the Fun Home - that's the Bechdel Funeral Home, baby" - which sits squarely in the space at the BrickBox Theate at the Jean McDonough Arts Center (JMAC).
Approximately 100 minutes without intermission.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
ABOUT THE SHOW
When her father dies unexpectedly, graphic novelist Alison dives deep into her past to tell the story of the volatile, brilliant, one-of-a-kind man whose temperament and secrets defined her family and her life.
Moving between past and present, Alison relives her unique childhood playing at the family’s Bechdel Funeral Home, her growing understanding of her own sexuality, and the looming, unanswerable questions about her father’s hidden desires.
Fun Home is a refreshingly honest, wholly original musical about seeing your parents through grown-up eyes.
ABOUT WORCESTER COUNTY LIGHT OPERA COMPANY (WCLOC)
Founded in 1937, WCLOC Theater is Worcester’s oldest active theater company. As a local, non-profit community theater, we depend on the generosity of our members, patrons, subscribers, and donors to help forward the mission of our organization to entertain, inform, and nurture local artists and audiences through the production of high quality, affordable musicals, plays, and children’s educational workshops. A donation to WCLOC allows us to continue to keep tickets affordable for local audiences, helps us maintain and make necessary improvements to our Clubhouse, and supports a full season of memorable theater and educational opportunities.