When Fun Home came to Broadway, it revolutionized the world of theatre. The ideas of struggling to figure out your sexual orientation and dealing with a dysfunctional family hits home for a lot of people. The variety of relatable themes presented in the show makes the impact it has on viewers unquestionable.
“I’ve seen it and am seeing it again at Wharton,” said Rachel Sze, a music education major at Michigan State University. “The show is incredible.”
The Tony award-winning musical, which is on its first U.S. tour, focuses on the themes of sexual orientation, identity, gender roles, emotional abuse, suicide and dysfunctional family life. Based on the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, the story gives a unique and relatable perspective on the conflicts in Bechdel’s life.
Apart from it being incredibly innovative, another reason the Wharton Center wanted to showcase Fun Home is that one of the writers, Lisa Kron, is from Michigan. Born in Ann Arbor, Kron g arew up in Lansing, where her parents sent her to a predominantly African-American elementary school in an effort to help integrate it. She later graduated as valedictorian from Everett High School before attending Kalamazoo College. Kron and her writing partner, Jeanine Tesori, were the first female writing team to ever win a Tony for Best Original Score.
In addition to this award, the show received numerous accolades while on Off-Broadway, including being a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and receiving a nomination for the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album. While running on Broadway from March 2015 to September 2016, Fun Home received twelve Tony nominations and won five (the most of any show that season), including Best Musical.
The plot weaves in and out of the perspectives of Bechdel from three different periods of her life: her childhood, her first year in college and her in the present as middle-aged. This unusual format draws attention to Bechdel’s attempts to figure out who she is while connecting different events in her life.
“I think that the format is great because you really understand who Alison is,” said Bob Hoffman, the public relations director at the Wharton Center. “Within two hours, you see how her life has changed and why she is who she is. They do a remarkable job transferring the character from one generation to another, and it’s seamless.”
Fun Home focuses on Bechdel’s search for her personal identity while coming to terms with her sexual orientation; it also concentrates on her complex relationship with her father. Within the narrative, “Fun Home” is a nickname created by the Bechdel family for “funeral home”, which is the business directed by Alison’s father. This was chosen as the title both because of the business, and as a reference to the tyrannical rule of Alison’s father, who was dealing with problems similar to his daughter.
Part of the reason that Fun Home has had such success is its direct approach to the very real problem of figuring out resolutions to these conflicts, and it has served as an inspiration for many who have come out. Sze is one of those people who was greatly influenced by the story. “I read the memoir,” Sze said, “And it meant so much to me during my coming out process.”
“Fun Home is a groundbreaking hit; it made history,” said Hoffman. “I think that the MSU community is really going to love it.”
Fun Home will be at the Wharton Center from June 6 to June 11. Tickets and more information can found at whartoncenter.com.