When five-time Tony Award winning musical Fun Home closed its month-long debut at Toronto’s Mirvish Theatre in May, it performed to sold-out audiences and received rave reviews. Thankfully the gang at Korda Artistic Productions have brought the Alison Bechdel musical to Windsor.
After watching the Korda premiere this weekend, it’s obvious why audiences are drawn to it. The deeply emotional musical is a powerfully expressive show that spends more time focusing on quietness and ambiguity rather than big, brassy numbers.
Fun Home is a misleading title should someone decide to judge the musical solely by its title. In many ways, Fun Home is not really fun at all. It’s tragically devastating and heavily rooted in its characters – not really the makings of a “fun” musical, but it is a wonderful story brought to life through song and compassion.
It tells the story of Alison, a 43-year-old lesbian cartoonist who struggles to untangle a complex relationship with her deceased father. Moving between past and present, Alison relives an unusual childhood growing up in a funeral home (the “Fun Home”), her sexual awakening and unanswered questions about her father’s secret life. It’s a story of both a coming of age and a coming out.
David Burrow’s Windsor production was everything we’d hoped for, from the cleaver stage design using cardboard for its walls, props and set pieces to the stellar ensemble cast lead by Kaitlyn Karns (grown-up Alison) and Brian Yeomans (Alison’s father Bruce).
Karns gave Alison a blend of yearning, suspenseful dissonance and euphoric fantasy, as she pranced around the stage engaging and overshadowing scenes of her life. She was everything I expected Alison to be. I’m not sure who was responsible for Alison’s artwork, but that was an unexpected surprise when Karns shared some of the images with the audience during one scene.
Meanwhile Yeomans gave the best performance of his career so far – his ability to both project and protect the struggles of Bruce’s homosexual fantasies was notable. He’s improved greatly from his appearance in the March production of Company and he’ll be a leading actor to watch for.
Sara Fontaine held a good balance between caring mother and emotional wife. Her performance of “Welcome to Our House on Maple Avenue” was noteworthy. There was also a bit of sexual comedy between Erica Peladeau (Medium Alison) and Jessie Gurniak (Joan) that provided the show some much needed breath from the family drama that unfolded. Drew Beaudoin (Roy/Peter/Mark/Bobby Jeremy) also had a few uncomfortable moments as Bruce’s boy toy.
The young kids in the show, however, held some of the best moments. Christian Brocoy (Christian), Emma Grace Osley (John) and Julia Pastorius (Small Alison) were a great team. During one routine in the funeral home, the three young actors killed it with “Come To The Fun Home”, a quirky and gruesome pretend television ad, sung and performed as a flashy Motown dance routine. Pastorius also had the most emotional moments in the show at the beginning and end, where she sang the words “I wanna play airplane! I wanna put my arms out and fly!” while being held in the air by Bruce pretending to fly. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when she did that at the end of the show.
The stunning Jeanine Tesori musical score was directed by pianist Sam Poole, with a Colin Zorzit (bass), Nicholas Baddeley (drums, percussion), Sebastian Bachmeier (reeds), Logan Fletcher (guitar) and Olivia Seal (violin).
Although it may not be as “fun” as its title suggests, Fun Home is a must-see show. It’s an emotional ride that connect with you at some point… and when it does, be prepared to hug the one that brought ya’.
Fun Home continues at Kordazone Theatre in Windsor on Sept. 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16, with matinee shows on Sundays. Tickets are available at the theatre or online.