Fun Home tells the true story of graphic novelist Alison Bechdel (also the creator of the Bechdel test: a method for evaluating the portrayal of women in fiction). In this production, the audience watches Alison as she wanders through her memories. She remembers growing up with a complicated and intense family life, her struggle with her desire to live authentically, her eventual self-discovery, and how she searches to find the explanations to unanswered questions within her family. There is adult language/content in the show, but it is not gratuitous. This story has moments of truth for every audience member and takes us in the right direction toward seeing and understanding the underexposed stories of the LGBTQ community.
Book and lyrics by Lisa Kiro come across choppy at times, and the music, written by Jeanine Tesori, though as lovely and complex as the story itself, occasionally peters out before the audience is ready. However, most of these issues disappear in the second act. The orchestra of seven, led by music director Kelley Gray, played with aplomb, guiding the audience to soar or sink with the characters.
The play’s narration is presented by the character of Adult Alison, played with extraordinary honesty by Brianne Dolney. Miss Dolney was able to transform herself into this grounded and genuine character; a character that is unlike any of her past roles, and did so with equally engaging vocals.
Though diction issues made some funny lyrics difficult to catch, and a few of the group harmonies didn’t hit the mark, there were many stand-out moments in the show. Keep your eye on Marci Rogers, playing Helen Bechdel. When her character is onstage but not the focus of the moment, watch her face closely. She has some beautiful, subtle, moments where we see her character strive to hide any sign of her tempest of feelings.
Strong vocals, acting choices and commitment by True Rogers as Bruce Bechdel were matched by Jaeleen Davis as Medium Alice. Maddie Snawder, as Small Alison, brought fantastic energy. A newcomer to Bay City’s stage, Alice Duffy, brought a grounded performance as Joan. It would be good to see her on this stage again in the future.
Director Jeff List, and assistant director/choreographer Meagan Eager kept the forward motion of the story in mind as they staged this show with minimal set changes and kept the pace of the actors at a good clip. I’m not sure I understood the reasoning behind setting the living room in front of the college dorm scenes as they were at times used simultaneously, and one transition out of a scene with sleeping bags did not match the pace of the others, but those things had minimal effect on the overall heart of the story.
Costume design was by Joy Butler. Sound design provided by L’Oreal Hartwell. Set design by Michael Wisniewski, James C. Pawloski, Autumn Reyes, and Sue Zolton with collaboration with Studio 23, Nico Reyes. The lighting design by Aaron Butler was often a bit too dark, but there were also moments of beauty in his design. Such as the rising sunlight in “Edges of the World”, which was breathtaking.
Thank heavens Fun Home is a story that is being told, and it is right in Bay City! This is a night at the theatre that’s different. Is it perfect? Of course not. Nothing is. But will you walk out of the theatre better for having seen it? Absolutely.
Performances: July 26th -29th Thursday – Saturday: 7:30 PM; Sundays: 3 PM
Recommended ages 16 to adult
Tickets may be purchased Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 1 PM.
Call the box office at: 989-893-5555 or purchase tickets online: