Caption. Actually, lots of captions – well, at least in my head. It’s how I feel about the Canadian premiere of the Jeanine Tesori/ Lisa Kron musical Fun Home presented by the Arts Club Theatre Company.
Based on Alison Bechdel’s childhood memoir turned into a graphic novel, Fun Home, a family tragicomic – later re-billed a “A coming of age musical”, the show already won numerous awards prior to opening on Broadway, eventually snagging the Tony Award’s Best Musical in 2015, among others. It’s very successful run on Broadway paved the way for a National Tour, and as soon a licensing became available, immediately opened up simultaneous regional and international productions, one of which is the Arts Club’s production that is currently showing at the Granville Island Stage.
Successfully presenting a portrait of Bechdel’s childhood, director Lois Anderson cannot assemble a better cast than this, each managing to highlight their passion and enjoyment in playing their roles even on heavy moments – and there are a lot – if that makes any sense. The cast of nine stood out equally which is a good thing, as it showed how effective they are in working together as a dysfunctional family.
There’s actually a non-speaking storyteller that served as the tenth cast – the house on Maple Avenue. Amir Ofek‘s set took us back in time and gave us a very good idea how then Bechdel family’s home looked. Complimenting Ofek’s set is Alan Brodie’s lighting which made the set laughed, it cried, it pulled you into its dark corners, even brought you outside. Refreshingly claustrophobic, the production chose a more traditional theatre style rather than the 360 degree Circle In the Square version New York did, and I am so glad this is how it was staged as it effectively brought me in without having to veer into different angles.
Ironically, what made me enjoy the show most are the times when I had to take deep breaths on those heavy moments I mentioned, specifically during Helen’s Etude, Days and Days, Telephone Wire, and Edges of the World. Not to say these are the only songs to watch out for, the entire catalog whether it’s a light-hearted Come to the Fun Home or a comic Changing My Major number, Jonathan Monro and the orchestra interpreted Tesori and Kron’s work successfully that it engaged and transformed the audience into flies on the wall. And fun fact: some cast members also played in the orchestra, as well, some orchestra players played bit parts.
I cannot rave more for Arts Club Theatre’s Canadian premiere of this beautiful musical. Just see it while you can and there’s still time to experience and visit the Bechdel family Fun Home at the Granville Island stage. You’ll feel good having a cry or two.
Photos by David Cooper