It’s so easy to praise “Fun Home” for being important — the first Broadway musical to feature a lesbian protagonist — that it’s easy to forget just how good it is. I love the way this cheeky adaptation flings its arms around the drawings and captions of Alison Bechdel’s famed graphic memoir and makes them live and breathe in the altogether different world of the stage. I revel in the deep and conflicted characters — not just the pivotal role of Alison herself, but also her father and mother, whose transgressions and heartaches have been (heartbreakingly) immortalized. I admire the way Bechdel’s memories of her dysfunctional childhood never bog down in the melodramatic but instead trace a spare, elegant arc of human dignity and resilience. I applaud the way the play nuzzles and flirts with memory, never striving for the authoritative but instead offering an unabashedly impressionistic picture of a life. I smile at the humor. And hurt at the tears.
Video: Thani Brant gives an in-studio performance of “Changing My Major” from “Fun Home.” It’s a bonus clip from the July episode of “The Munro Review” on CMAC.
Most of all, I love the way the score (music by Jeanine Tesori, lyrics by Lisa Kron) amplifies and enhances the emotional power of the material. For days after seeing the opening night performance of the fine new StageWorks Fresno production (which continues through July 15), a song from the show rattled around in my head. It might not be the one you’d expect. It wasn’t “Ring of Keys,” the beautiful exploration of burgeoning sexuality performed by Small Alison (played by a terrific Novi Alexander) as she melts at the sight of a butch delivery woman. And it wasn’t “Changing My Major,” the bursting-with-first-love comic showstopper sung by Medium Alison (a wonderful Thani Brant), just after her first sexual experience.