Kevin T. Baldwin
After a two-year wait due to the COVID-19 resulting in absence of theater, Worcester County Light Opera Company is finally able to present “Fun Home” a multi-layered musical drama that provides a major emotional impact, bringing tears to more than a few eyes.
Directed by Eric Butler, with music direction by Lenny McGuire and choreography by Denise Day, the musical is based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic novel and memoir.
“Fun Home” originally won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical and, with this latest staging by Butler and his fine cast, follows the character of “Alison” through three significant phases in her life. WCLOC normally presents productions at its home base, the Grandview Playhouse, but “Fun Home” is being performed at BrickBox Theater at the Jean McDonough Arts Center on Franklin St.
Throughout the story, set in the 1970s, the audience experiences Bechdel’s evolution as she shares memories that celebrate the different stages of her life:
We witness Bechdel’s initial queerness feelings emerging during childhood (through “Small Alison” as played by Grace Olah), the challenges of those “feelings” as full realization as she comes out during her college years (as seen in the character of “Medium Alison”). ‘ as played by Jess Guertin) and the complexities of the family and the revelation of seeing one’s parents through the eyes of Alison as an adult (as played by Liz Couture).
Thanks to the writing and Butler’s direction, this fine collection of “Alisons” blended so well they were immediately believable as the one central character.
Olah performs a magnificent rendition of the musical’s most noted song, “Ring of Keys,” as Small Alison recalls a first crush. Guertin, similarly, does an admirable job with the song about Medium Alison describes her first real love in the song “Changing My Major.”
While the musical not only shines a light on Alison’s emergence and ultimate embrace of her own sexuality, she simultaneously deals with a very disappointing and “counter-productive” relationship with her troubled father, Bruce (Chuck Grigaitis), who is shown to have endured a multitude of demons after decades suppressing his own queer identity.
As tormented as Bruce was, his wife, Helen (Linnea Lyerly), found herself in the position of sharing in the concealment of her husband’s closeted gay life which culminates in her own torment which she describes in the moving number, “Days and Days. “
Music director Lenny McGuire assembled a fine pit which performed the musical’s complex score to perfection.
There were a couple of vocal missteps during a couple of the group numbers, where some members went a little off pitch, but otherwise the vocal performances were solid throughout.
Choreography by Denise Day for the musical’s few actual “dance numbers” (like in the fun, upbeat song “Raincoat of Love”) perfectly accentuated the rest of the show’s blocking provided by Butler.
The impressive set was not quite minimal but certainly had an abstract quality to it. It was a wonderful design by Ed Savage.
At a run time of 100 minutes and no intermission, not one second wasted as we become absolutely absorbed in Bechdel’s poignant tale and deeply moving recollections.
So, absolutely “find your way to the Fun Home – that’s the Bechdel Funeral Home, baby” – which sits squarely in the space at the BrickBox Theater at the Jean McDonough Arts Center.
Approximately 100 minutes without intermission.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theater Critics Association
Written by Jeanine Tesori, Lisa Kron, and Alison Bechdel. Directed by Eric Butler. Music directed by Lenny McGuire. Choreographed by Denise Day. Performance 2 pm May 1. Presented by Worcester County Light Opera Company at the BrickBox Theater at the Jean McDonough Arts Center, 20 Franklin St., Worcester. Tickets $22.50-$27.50.
Cast includes Liz Couture, Grace Olah, Jess Guertin, Lexi Meunier, Chuck Grigaitis, Linnea Lyerly, Henry Cron, Lucas Claydon, Michael Skrzek.