Saturday December 16th 2017

“Fun Home”

When “Fun Home”‘s Broadway touring Production came through town, I felt that the beauty of this Tony-Award winning musical based on the book by Alison Bechdel, a cartoonist, illustrator, would be better served in a more intimate space. The large theater may hold larger audiences, but the audience loses some of the inner-action that almost demands an “up-close-and-personal” look. That is why, the current production of the “chamber” musical, now on the main stage at Victory Gardens, appears even stronger than the original. Add to this, that this version is directed by Gary Griffin, who is indeed a master of musical direction!

Griffin has put together an amazing cast to bring Bechdel’s life to audiences. The book and lyrics by Lisa Kron and the music by Jeanine Tesori, brings the graphic novel written by Alison Bechdel to greater heights. While the songs in this play are not tunes that one will recall later, they propel the powerful story of a young girl finding her identity with amazing clarity. Alison (played in this version by Chicago favorite Danni Smith, who is even more amazing than I expected) is onstage during the entire play, serving as our narrator as she tells about her life from childhood through  today and attempts to unravel the mysteries that helped to create the woman she is today!

The focus on the family touches her mother (played to perfection by McKinley Carter), a woman who married and had her children, doing what might be expected of a housewife/homemaker, but who was forced to make sacrifices to do so. There is also some mention of her two brothers, Christian (Leo Gonzalez) and John ( Preetish Chakraborty), but with the exception of one adorable song the kids do “Come To The Fun Home” ( a musical TV commercial for their family funeral home business) the boys are more background to the autobiography that Ms. Bechdel’s saga is.

Alison is seen in thee stages, “little” Alison  (played in today’s performance by  Stella Rose Hoyt ), a loveable fifth grader that will capture your heart as she wrestles with her inner feelings. This role is played by two girls, alternating. The other is Sage Elliott Harper (some of the other reviewers-www.theatreinchicago.com, will have her performances). She takes us through childhood memories, where we see early on that Alison would prefer jeans and a “t” shirt over a “Party Dress”. What is powerful about the smaller theater is the fact that we can see the reactions that Alsison had to the events in her earlier years. On the large stage, these were missed. To tell the truth, having Ms Smith on the stage is a major difference as well. Her reactions are mind-boggling!

As Alison tells us of her middle years, we meet Hannah Starr as “medium” Alison. This is the point in Alison’s life that she discovers that she in not asexual, but is in fact a Lesbian. She meets Joan ( played to perfection by Danielle Davis) who shows her that it is okay to be who she really is. It is during this period in her life that she learns more about her father and his “secret” life. While he was around, a teacher, a funeral director and a sort of historian of the community, Alison finds out that over the years he has been in the closet and has indeed done some things that could have cost the family everything. Bruce Bechdel is played by Rob Lindley who will make you both love and hate this man. I must tell you that just watching and hearing him do “Edges of the World” will fill you with emotions you may not even know existed within you. This number will be at least two tissues (maybe even three). Joe Lino plays all the other parts in this production and does so with great style, making each one a personality of their own.

I see a number of Jeff nominations for this masterful production of a play that belongs on a stage the size of Victory Gardens. What this production lacks in glitz and glamour of the previous productions that came through town, it far makes up for  with the heart and soul of this powerful cast and the direction of Griffin. Add to all those mentioned, musical direction by the incredible Doug Peck, the musical wizardry of Conductor Charlotte Rivard-Hoster and her musicians, the set (Yu Shibagaki) which never over-shadows the action, the lighting (Paul Whitaker), the sound (Ray Nardelli), the costumes (Melissa NG) and the props (Mealah Heidenreich and Alec Long) and you have a show that should be on you “MUST SEE ” list.

Even if you have seen “Fun Home” before, if you haven’t seen this production, you need to adjust your calendar and find a date to do so. “Fun Home” will continue at Victory Gardens Theater thru November 12th with performances as follows:

Tuesdays  7:30 p..

Wednesdays  7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  3 p.m. and  7:30 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

Running time is 90 minutes- NO INTERMISSION!

Accessible performances– word-for-word- open captioning Friday October 6th, Sat. October 7th  3 p.m. and a special Wednesday  10/11 at 2 p.m.

ASL interpreted  10/6  at 7:30 p.m.

Audio Description/touch tour  10/6 at 7:30 p.m. and 10/15 at 3 p.m.

Tickets range from $15- $75 and are available at the box office located at the theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, by calling 773-871-3000 or online at www.victorygardens.org or tickets@victorygardens.org

A full schedule of events related to this production are available on the site http://www.victorygardens.orglots of post show conversations and projects. Parking via valet is probably the best way as the area is one with zone restrictions and meters.

Some of the topics: I Came Out Like A Wrecking Ball- 11/2  9:30 p.m.

After The Honeymoon- 10/26 9:30 p.m. TOWN-HALL Meeting

College Night-Family Secrets  10/20  9:30 p.m. you will find them all at http://www,victorygardens.org

To see what others are saying, visit http://www,theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Fun Home”

 

 

 

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