Walking out of the Arden Theatre on a Saturday afternoon I felt the powerful impact of the production of Fun Home I had just seen. This production under the direction of Terrence J. Nolen is brilliantly done. It is a musical based on the graphic novel Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, which depicts her relationship with her father. This shown not only tells the story of Bechdel, it also reels in the audience so they may bear witness to this incredibly told story and it is an emotional journey. There are moments in the show when it felt like cells from Bechdel’s graphic novel came to life onstage. The cast for this show is exceptional as they tell this heart-wrenching and moving story. It is an incredible production and this show and the Arden made me fall in love with this musical.
Fun Home is based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Lisa Kron. The musical tells the story of an eccentric and troubled family. The show chronicles the story of the lead character, Allison, and her relationship with her father. The story is inspired by the graphic novel and there are times that scenes from the novel seem to step off of the pages and onto the stage. Additionally, the show draws upon how Bechdel was inspired by her life events to write the graphic novel, Fun Home. The way this story is told on stage at the Arden feels like the audience has a window into the lives and emotions of the characters.
The entire cast of Fun Home is excellent. They create a family dynamic onstage, which allows them to tell this powerful story. Playing the role of Alison is Mary Tuomanen. Tuomanen gives an incredible and moving performance. There are moments that are funny and there are parts that are extremely intense. What I like about this particular production is the way Alison is present onstage for most of the show looking on as if she sees her memories unfolding before her. Watching Tuomanen react to all the scenes is amazing to witness, she does a spectacular job at expressing a range of emotions as she observes scenes from her own life. The part of Medium Alison is portrayed by Izzy Castaldi. Castaldi is outstanding as this character who is coming to terms with her sexuality. Her song, “Changing My Major” is well-done, and her performance as Medium Alison is full of passion, humor and frustration. Lily Lexer plays Young Alison. Lexer commands the stage especially in her song, “Ring of Keys,” which is shiver inducing. In addition, she brings out the innocence and curiosity of Young Alison. Playing the father, Bruce Bechdel, is Ben Dibble. Dibble’s Bruce is a compelling figure who seems in conflict between expressing himself and containing his emotions. What struck me about Dibble’s performance is the way that although Bruce is disconnected and quick-tempered there is a level of warmth that comes out between him and his children. Dibble’s number “Edges of the World” is powerful and emotional. Kim Carson portrays Alison’s mother, Helen Bechdel. Carson is spectacular in this role as she plays this complex character who is striving to be a mother, an actress and a wife. Also, Carson illustrates how Helen feels powerless in her marriage as she is keenly aware of her husband’s secret life. She delivers a dynamic and emotional performance in “Days and Days.” Charles LaMonaca and Lyam David-Kilker are delightful as Alison’s brothers, Christian and John. They deliver a performance that is full of innocence and curiosity. Furthermore, the song “Come to the Fun Home” performed by the three kids of the cast, Lexer, LaMonaca and David-Kilker is hilarious and full of energy. The audience loved this number the day I was in attendance. Jackie Soro portrays Joan, Allison’s girlfriend who she meets in college. She offers levity at points in the show, and she has great chemistry with Castaldi who plays Medium Alison. Soro is confident and vibrant in this role. Rounding out this cast is Robert Hager who plays a variety of roles as young men throughout the show. He gives stunning vocals in the song “Raincoat of Love,” which is similar to songs one might have heard on The Partridge Family in the 1970s. His performance in this number is energetic and this is a very lively and animated song to watch especially with the choreography by Niki Cousineau.
I also need to mention the artistic team. I loved the set design complete with a drafting desk for Alison. The set was designed by James Kronzer. The vibrant costumes were designed by Rosemarie McKelvey. Thom Weaver is the Lighting Designer and Jorge Cousineau is the Sound Designer. Ryan Touchey serves as the Music Director. Additionally, Jennie Eisenhower is the Associate Director.
Fun Home runs at the Arden Theatre through June 24, 2018. For more information and tickets please visit their website at www.ardentheatre.org or call their box office at 215-922-1122.
Final Thought: Fun Home at the Arden Theatre Company is one of the best performances I have seen this year. The assembled cast, under the direction of Terrence J. Nolen, is brilliant. They take the audience on a journey with them and tell this powerful story. Do not miss this show!
Kelli Curtin is founding editor and writer for theatresensation.com. She has maintained a love of the performing arts since a very early age and she is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.
Photo Credit: Ashley Smith, Wide Eyed Studios