So we watched Fun Home because Lea Salonga had top billing. While I generally prioritize plays that are familiar, Lea Salonga is a reason to watch a show all by herself at times. And I feel no shame in sharing this method of theater prioritization. She's simply amazing.
So it became an afterthought to consider what the play was about. I saw Tony Award Winning as part of the tagline and that was a good start to things. And then I learned more about the play. And then we saw it.
And then I was blown away.
Synopsis: Fun Home is a musical based on Alison Bechdel's autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. It was adapted by Lisa Kron (book and lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori (music) and won the Tony Award for Best Musical last year among other awards. The Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group staging was directed by Bobby Garcia and ran from November 10-27, 2016 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium at the RCBC Plaza in Makati City.
A middle-aged Alison Bechdel (Cris Villonco) is working on her memoir and thinks back to her childhood. She's first reminded of her much younger self (Katie Brashaw / Andee Achacoso) and how controlling her father (Eric Kunze) was when it came to their museum-like house with her mother (Lea Salonga) humoring he father's eccentricities.
She also reflects on her college days (Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante) and time when she was just getting a grip on her gender identity and its when she meets Joan (Yanah Laurel), who makes her feels all sorts of things. But it's also a story about her father's death, which seems to cast a shadow across the entire production and has clearly had a great impact on Alison's life.
What I Liked: As is the case with many true stories, it's a powerful one and one that was crafted in such a way to really send the message home. That "message" is probably different for everyone watching the production. It's a story about the struggle of growing up LGBT. It's perhaps a cautionary tale about the struggle of denying yourself by staying in the closet. It's the challenge of a mother to keep things together when so much go wrong. It's so many different things.
Of course Lea was amazing, although her role wasn't necessarily central to the show (no matter how much you see her in the main posters). But the talent we need to pay attention to is the young Katie Bradshaw who was quite the powerhouse regardless of her age or stature. Her older sister Mikkie was also quite striking in this production and they really carried a lot of the show with their performances.
What Could Have Been Better: The play had weird lighting for various seasons and as much as part of it was for mood, a lot of it just felt wrong and it made it hard to appreciate some of the performances. There's dark and there's theater dark, if you get my drift.
Eric Kunze certainly sings well but he didn't necessarily feel like the best character for the role for some reason. Maybe I'm reading too much into things but it just felt a little off. He wasn't bad, just not quite in theme for some reason.
TL;DR: Fun Home is an AMAZING production and a complex tale of families, growing up and accepting the truth of things. Lea is a great reason to go, but the other girls really sell the show and bring it home in the part of you where all the feelings live. Thus I'm happy to give the production a well-deserved 5 letters between Alison and her dad out of a possible 5.