Growing up is hard. Especially when you’ve got a secret. And you have to help out at the family business: a funeral home.
What’s that you say? Sounds like perfect material for a musical!
Well, of course it is.
And not just any musical: A five-time Tony Award-winner that made its South Florida debut just last week.
Fun Home is the story of Alison, a successful, forty-something graphic novelist who’s looking back on her life as she writes — and draws — her autobiography. The musical is based on the best-selling memoir by Alison Bechdel, creator of the beloved, long-running (1983–2008) comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For (and winner of a 2014 MacArthur Fellows “genius grant”).
The show focuses on two periods in Alison’s life: at age 10, growing up in a family dominated by her brilliant father and working with her brothers in the funeral home (which inspires the show’s title song!); and as a 19-year-old college freshman, out on her own for the first time and struggling to tell the family she’s a lesbian.
But Alison isn’t the only one with something to hide. Her father Bruce has secrets too. What kind of secrets? The kind that might be particularly resonant for LGBT audiences.
What follows is a funny, heart-achingly honest tale of coming out and coming of age, a story that touches on everything from first love, untimely death, and gender roles to compulsive home renovation, The Partridge Family, and the timeless allure of keychain-toting bulldykes.
The Arsht production closes out the season for its Theater Up Close Series, and you certainly can get up close to all the Fun because the show is staged in the plus intime Carnival Studio Theater. Tucked inside the Ziff Ballet Opera House, this 60-by-70-foot “black box” performance space seats fewer than 300 people.
It’s the perfect venue for the musical, which was developed over a period of five years — and workshopped everywhere from the Ojai Playwrights Conference to Sundance Theatre Lab to New York City’s Public Theater — before opening at Circle in the Square Theatre in 2015. Broadway’s first show to feature an out, lesbian lead character, Fun Home racked up enough awards to fill a Subaru Outback before hitting the Tony trifecta: winning the 2015 awards for Best Musical, and Best Book of a Musical, and Best Score (New York Times critic Anthony Tomassini dubbed Jeanine Tesori’s score a “masterpiece”).
Helming the Arsht production is Zoetic Stage Artistic Director Stuart Meltzer. “Fun Home is a unique musical that touches audiences’ souls with its clear storytelling and honesty,” he says. “The musical is unafraid and Alison Bechdel’s story resonates with so many people because we all can relate to the dynamics of family, whether that family is functional or dysfunctional.”
If you’ve got any friends with functional families, tell ’em their tickets are on me!
Fun Home runs Thursday–Sunday through May 13 at the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater. For tix ($50–$55): 305-949-6722 or arshtcenter.org.