|Small Alison flies: Beth Malone, Sydney|
Lucas and Michael Cerveris
They were also, I think, tears of joy - those extra special ones reserved for those life-changing moments in a theatre. It has been some four and a half years since I shed those same kind of tears - at a preview performance of next to normal. Both shows have unconventional stories, characters and methods of telling their tales. Both deal in terms that are completely theatrical. And both allow us to connect with humanity - people that are not like us on the surface, but so much like us at their roots - in ways we never dreamed possible. In short, the brilliant, challenging Fun Home is everything that musical theatre can be and can do. It is one of those rare times when you leave the theatre a different, somehow better person than when you entered.
Like all of the greatest musicals of the modern era, this one is most importantly fat-free: every line of every scene and every song, each movement, each design element, everything works seamlessly together. Enlightening characterizations, thematic meanings, ironic juxtapositions - all of the complexities of life and literature - are revealed by all of the senses that the writers and creative team demand that audience bring to the piece. It is one of those shows that you can just feel the electricity and bond growing between the cast and the crowd, where the tears flow and the laughter swells on both sides of the footlights. That feeling is so rare. All of this is as heady and artistic as I've painted it - critical assessments of this piece will be written, the piece itself studied. But what elevates this from musical to all-encompassing work of art, though, is that for all of its "academic" excellence, it never forgets the cardinal rule: theatre is entertainment.
|Small Alison and her mother:|
Sydney Lucas and Judy Kuhn
|"Come to the Fun Home"|
Griffin Birney, Noah Hinsdale, Sydney Lucas
|"Raincoat of Love" - The Company|
One such instance is "Days," a monumentally sad ballad gloriously delivered by the completely brilliant Judy Kuhn. And there are those stunning moments of self-discovery: the complicated "Al for Short" and "Ring of Keys," both sung by Small Alison, when she recognizes "different" feelings - her need to wear her hair short and in anything but a dress; her recognition that there is something "interesting" about a woman truck driver. Some may want to read something unseemly into these moments, but these are just the innocent stirrings of a young child.
|Alexandra Socha and Judy Kuhn|
|Roberta Colindrez and Alexandra Socha|
|Three Alisons: Beth Malone, Sydney|
Lucas and Alexandra Socha
|Joel Perez, Michael Cerveris and Beth Malone|
|Sydney Lucas and Michael Cerveris|
(Photos by Joan Marcus)