Sometimes we want to see a show that ran off-Broadway once it opens uptown because we loved it so much. Other times, it's to see what has changed. I saw Fun Home off-Broadway in November of 2013 and blogged about it here. Let me just say, I'm not sure WHAT show I saw downtown or if I was just in the wrong mood, but seeing it at Circle in the Square now on Broadway was a completely different experience for me.
People loved this show off-Broadway. They raved. If you read my original review about this memory play of a grown lesbian coming to terms with the story of her closeted gay father who kills himself and raises his family in a funeral home (fun home), you'll see I was sort of lukewarm before. Last night, I was actually crying by the end of the musical. Previously I sat in the very back of the theater and felt removed from the story. No connection. I was watching it happen from far away. Now, you feel as if you are part of the memory - that you are right there living through it all with Alison as she recounts her story.
Many of the leads have moved with the show to Broadway and they have all settled into these roles beautifully. Beth Malone breaks my heart as she tries to make sense of her past. Emily Skeggs is wonderfully awkward and empowering as the college-aged Alison. And Sydney Lucas has grown up since off-Broadway playing Small Alison, but still youthful, bright, and has a great song with "Keys". Judy Kuhn touched me much more in this setting and Michael Cerveris is pure brilliance in this role that makes you angry and yet also makes you so sad for him. What he has done to his entire family…wow - Cerveris finds layers to this character that are mesmerizing to watch.
At first, I thought I would miss the vast set from off-Broadway. But what they have done with the sets for Broadway - incredible. Everything floats in and out as it should for something taking place in memory. And yet as the audience, we can feel the stifling museum-feeling of this house they live in. We feel trapped like a fly on the wall hearing what is taking place and often are in an awkward position. That's how close you feel in this new setting. And that's part of the reason I connected to it this time around and was so touched by the music and words of Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron. Kudos to Sam Gold on how he has directed this show in the round.
I'm still unsure if everyone will fall in love with this musical. It's heavy. Even if the colors and commercial attempt to lighten it up. The young siblings get great moments of levity in some songs, Roberta Colindrez & Oscar Williams offer reprieve from the heaviness of the situation, and yes - even the leads will have you laughing. But when you laugh, you still feel the looming presence of doom and gloom in this tomb of a home. The house is full of secrets and they are never too far out of your view. All of that hovers over you so that when Alison sings to her dad "say something!" as they are on a car ride, you want desperately for her to be able to change the inevitably fate that she has told us about at the show's beginning.
For those that appreciate smaller musicals with deep messages…give this one a try. And if you're like me, sometimes you need to give it another look. So glad I did or I would have missed out on a true theatrical experience last night.
PS: Looking at this photo of small Alison and her dad hits me in a completely different way now than it did before. Sometimes we all just need to fly.