Fun Home (the musical)
November 23, 2013 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Neat. I didn't even know this existed. Thanks!
posted by mykescipark at 6:52 PM on November 23, 2013

Great post. Fun Home was, IMO, not only one of the best comics I've ever read, but one of the best books in any genre. Interesting to read Bechdel's take on the musical, which looks like it could be really good.
posted by spacewaitress at 6:57 PM on November 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

Very excited to see this, hopefully it will make its way to Texas in some form sooner or later.
posted by emjaybee at 6:59 PM on November 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just got home from seeing this! It was wonderful, and really well done. The actors were all fantastic, and I was particularly impressed with "young Allison". So the answer is: I don't know if America is ready, but they should be, because it was great.
posted by pmb at 7:23 PM on November 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh my god what? Really? Amazing!
posted by rtha at 8:12 PM on November 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I saw the show last week. I was completely and utterly wrecked by it in the best way. I sobbed with joy, two-fold joy: the joy of seeing a bunch of artists working at the height of their collective talent and powers; and the joy of recognizing parts of my own experience in the experience of others. In other words, I sat in Row M and saw some actors and musicians just knock it out of the park. And I sat in Row M and saw my own life reflected back at me in way that gave me both pain and insight.

It's not perfect. I can quibble with some of the pacing in the middle third, with some of the staging choices, especially in the final minutes, with some orchestrations. But I hope it runs from now until forever. I hope everyone sees it. I hope it gets recorded, and published, and produced at every regional theater from here to Hong Kong.

(Possibly my favorite moment at the theater in recent memory: weeping and laughing as Medium Alison sings "I'm changing my major to Joan," reaching out to grab my husband's hand as one of my best girlfriends reaches out to grab mine, her husband holding hers on the other side. The four of us holding hands through our happy tears as we all share the moment.)
posted by minervous at 8:12 PM on November 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

Why wouldn't America be ready for this? It's hardly the first play about gay people, or the first play where tragic things happen to families. Only someone who has literally never read or seen any play in the last century could worry about such a thing.
posted by Sara C. at 10:40 PM on November 23, 2013 [8 favorites]

that sondheim essay was brilliant.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:54 PM on November 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

I want to see this so badly. The reviews have been very good, and of course the book itself is a marvel.
posted by jokeefe at 11:22 PM on November 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I asked Bechdel, who is obsessive about presenting a truthful version events in her autobiographical comics, how it felt to hand over her life story to someone else, knowing that the adaptation would inevitably involve inventions and conflations. “It almost felt like a relief, the burden of accuracy being lifted,” she told me. “I feel like they get at something more essentially accurate than I was able to do. They understood the emotional backbone of the story better than I did, which was disturbing.”

I'm reminded of Samuel Delany's observation in The Motion of Light in Water that someone else might do a better job (or at least make it more objectively true) of writing Delany's autobiography than he was managing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:10 AM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this, especially the Sondheim article. I hope they manage to get the score recorded. Some of the very best stuff in recent years has come out of the Public - See What I Wanna See is just one example. And Jeanine Tesori, whose Violet is just breathtaking.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 6:56 AM on November 24, 2013

I only heard about this show yesterday on NPR, and immediately got goosebumps. Not because of the subject matter, but because Jeanine Tesori composed the music for Tony Kushner's Caroline, or Change, which despite its lack of commercial success is one of the most amazing shows I've heard or seen (thank you PBS) in the past decade. Hearing that she had done another show made me oh so very happy.
posted by hippybear at 7:41 AM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Ugh, I really want to see this, but the ticket price ($105/ticket) is really holding me up. I know that would be standard for Broadway, but I've never paid that much for a show at the Public before. I wish I'd heard of this while it was in previews. (And I'm sure even the extended run will sell out soon.)
posted by yarrow at 7:52 AM on November 24, 2013

> "Jeanine Tesori composed the music for Tony Kushner's Caroline, or Change ..."

And Lisa Kron wrote "Well", which, if you haven't seen, see. (Is it playing anywhere now?)

posted by kyrademon at 8:24 AM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thanks for posting this! I'm going to try to see it on my upcoming New York trip.

Here's a great Bechdel interview on Fun Home from The Atlantic.
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:57 AM on November 24, 2013

It's hardly the first play about gay people

Yeah, but I don't know of any major modern productions that really look at lesbian life. "The Normal Heart" and "Billy Elliott" and "Avenue Q" and "La Cage aux Follies" and "Angels in America" and "Boys in the Band" and "Kinky Boots" and "The Boy from Oz" and all the major "gay" plays that I can think of are primarily about gay men -- and lesbian lives don't map to theirs in many ways. Yes, there were lesbians in "Rent," and then of course there was "The Children's Hour" (which thoroughly traumatized me as a young teen), and then there was "The Color Purple" in which the lesbian couple breaks up so that one of them can pursue a relationship with a man. It's amazing that how little representation there has been! So this is a big deal. Anyway, I hope you are right that America is ready -- I certainly am!
posted by Wordwoman at 11:19 AM on November 24, 2013 [10 favorites]

What Wordwoman said!

For that matter, I can't think of many shows with a butch woman as a central character, whatever her orientation.

And I expect a lot of people would feel like that was almost a contradiction, especially in musical theater — like, "Wait, you're going to show me a good-looking woman in tights and makeup, and she's going to be singing and dancing beautifully, and you expect me to read her as butch? No fucking way!" Which of course is ridiculous, but people don't know it's ridiculous until you show them.

(This is gonna be the second time this month that I've waxed poetic on here about my love for Anybodys in West Side Story, who was one of my own personal butch idols for a long-ass time. But she's actually a phenomenally unhealthy idol: a total outsider, desperate for attention, only tolerated when men find her useful, and anyway such a minor character that you only notice her if you're already nursing an unhealthy fascination with the teenage-tomboy-badass-martyr archetype. We can do better!)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 12:03 PM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

There aren't as many plays about lesbian life, but that's not the same thing as implying that it's a major taboo and that America might not be "ready" for such a play.

I played a butch lesbian in a high school play in a conservative Southern town fifteen years ago. Nobody protested.

America is totally ready for a musical about a butch lesbian.

The only potential conflict I can see arising is with the costume department being bored.

Sorry, I'm just really annoyed with Slate's need to hyperbolize for clickbait purposes. There's nothing controversial about this play, and I think we all know that.
posted by Sara C. at 12:21 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks for putting this link set together. Out here in flyover country, I look forward to seeing this production sometime in the 2020s.

(Although I did just see a UK National Theater production at a local movie house -- if any NY producer-type mefites can talk to the Public about that.)

Just in case you're new to Alison Bechdel's work, here's her blog, which often has graphic commentary. You can read around 80 of the fabulous Dykes To Watch Out For panels, which greatly improved my quality of life every two weeks when it appeared in various newsprint outlets in the 80s and 90s, like Gay Community News and off our backs.
posted by Jesse the K at 12:50 PM on November 24, 2013

This makes me so happy! I hope this tours, or shows up in LA eventually.
Bechdel's mulling DTWOF again? *fangirl squee*!
posted by luckynerd at 1:58 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

> "Yeah, but I don't know of any major modern productions that really look at lesbian life ... It's amazing that how little representation there has been!"

This has been an issue for a long time now, much longer than it reasonably should be (I ran a lesbian-themed theater festival for four years in the 2000's for just this reason.)

While I can think of a few plays that might be added to your list, Wordwoman, that could arguably count as "major productions" (Stop Kiss, Boston Marriage, The Beebo Brinker Chronicles), even they aren't exactly household names that have been adapted into major movies, etc. and it's a tiny number compared to the high-profile plays about gay men I could list off the top of my head.

Here's hoping that is changing ...
posted by kyrademon at 3:50 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

This show is my favorite thing I've seen in a good long while, and I hope it finds a life outside this brief run either on Broadway or regionally. I especially hope for a cast recording!

I had a very similar experience as minervous—there's plenty to quibble about, but I ended up not caring to quibble. The show is my favorite combination of ambitious, subtle, funny, and heartbreaking—especially the two younger actresses who play Alison, and Judy Kuhn's total surprise of a song toward the end of the show.

Bonus Sondheim theatergoing side story: the last time I was at the Public Theater, I sat directly next to Sondheim during a preview for his own musical, Road Show (also starring Michael Cerveris). It was the most distracting but fascinating theater experience of my life—the dude could not sit still, and he would groan and sigh if lyrical jokes fell flat or when musicians made errors with the score. He would then spend the next few seconds taking out his frustrations on the notebook on his lap. I assume he's a more well-behaved theater patron for other people's shows.
posted by ausdemfenster at 4:33 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

What? I thought all musicals were about....never mind.
posted by telstar at 7:00 PM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Musicals are traditionally the straightest of the straight, even though they were largely made by gay men. They're about a leading man and an ingénue,” says Kron.

I feel a little FFS about this (typically Slate) link-bait "is america ready for this" nonsense. Only someone who has quite literally missed the last 50 years of musical theatre would say that musicals are always about a leading man and an ingenue. This might be a good show (though with Tesori's campy, genre-adhering, and altogether boring tunes I sadly kind of doubt it), but I think calling this some kind of uniquely subversive theatre is a little hackneyed. The musical theatre, largely in part but not entirely due to Sondheim, hasn't been all Rogers and Hammerstein for a very long time.

Until the last 10 years or so, musicals have been a haven for boundary pushing narratives. There are plenty of lesbians, plenty of gay men, plenty of shows dealing with horrible things like rape and murder and invasion and war and racism and disease. I'm not saying we don't need more of them, but to hail this as some kind of Brand New Thing feels pretty disingenuous to me.

I guess it also kind of rubs me the wrong way when the New Yorker compares Sondheim's lyrics, poetry on a level far above pretty much any other theatre writing to date, to the pretty typical, schlocky, boring lyrics in Fun Home. Though I suppose that's the reaction they're going for.

Perhaps autobiography never appealed to him, when so much could be said obliquely.

Hmm, well perhaps the writer of this New York piece doesn't know Sondheim all that well then to begin with.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:02 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hmm, on re-read my comment seems more negative I think than I meant it. I haven't seen the show (only heard it), and it might be great. It might be a great piece of theatre. I have no comment on that. But I do think that doing this arm waving Look At Us Being Edgy stuff isn't doing anyone any favors, least of all the show and the lgbtq community.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:06 PM on November 24, 2013

Jeanine Tesori composed the music for Tony Kushner's Caroline, or Change ...

And Lisa Kron wrote "Well", which, if you haven't seen, see. (Is it playing anywhere now?)

One of my great joys in creating my first full English/Communications course from scratch was putting "Well" on the syllabus. When the course finally gets taught, I hope it blows a few minds.

I also loved Caroline, or Change, so I wish I were still in NYC to see this.
posted by ilana at 8:26 PM on November 24, 2013

Fun Home is one of the greatest graphic ever made, so I hope the adaptation does justice. Has anyone read her new one, Are You My Mother?, yet?
posted by Corduroy at 8:50 PM on November 24, 2013

I think Fun Home is an absolute masterpiece, but at no time when I was reading it did I think to myself "you know what this needs? More singing and dancing!" But I think I'm just immune the the allure musicals as a genre.

Corduroy, Are You My Mother? is worth reading but I didn't think it was as good as the first memoir. It focusses way more on Bechdel's therapy, and her relationship with her mother just isn't as interesting to me as the stuff she talked about in the first book.
posted by whir at 10:36 AM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

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