TheaterTheater Review

The Cellar Theater Stages a Poignant ‘Fun Home’

The three Alisons (left to right): Olivia Barron, Taylor Henderson and Shani Hadjian in ‘Fun Home’ at the Cellar Theater (photo: Siggi Ragnar).

Based on the 2006 graphic novel by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the Tony Award-winning musical Fun Home dramatizes her amusing and touching coming-of-age story. Though it’s small in scale, it brims with emotion, making it a perfect production for the Cellar’s intimate space.

Fun Home was adapted for the stage by Jeanine Tesori (music) and Lisa Kron (book and lyrics), and their work is splendid. The musical numbers range from hilarious (“Welcome to the Fun Home”) to profoundly moving (“Ring of Keys”), and they all bring Bechdel’s story to compelling life.

Starting as a little Pennsylvania girl who worships her dad, Alison matures into a young woman coming to terms with her sexuality. Her father, Bruce, is a charismatic but domineering man who can be tough or tender with his daughter, along with her brothers, John and Christian. Their mother, Helen, is sadly the frequent target of his explosive temper, which has left her somewhat aloof. It will be years before Alison discovers the source of Bruce’s outbursts.

The Cellar cast is exceptional. Shani Hadjian portrays the adult Alison, the narrator of the piece. As she watches the younger versions of herself (Taylor Henderson as a child and Olivia Barron as a university student), she reacts with wry amusement — and more than a little embarrassment. All three actors are terrific in their roles, and they’re all are given show-stopping numbers, which they perform excellently.

Daniel McKeever is also outstanding as the tormented Bruce, whose temper can flare in an instant. Megan DeYoung presents a heartfelt portrayal of Helen, a woman trapped in a disappointing marriage. Alyssa Lopez is a delight as the no-nonsense Joan, who helps Alison out of the closet. Elliot Kehoe and Briggs Blume are precociously amusing as Alison’s high-spirited brothers, and Brian Hodges handles a number of supporting characters with aplomb.

The production is directed with a deft hand by Molly Cox, and Josh Pepper’s musical accompaniment is up to its usual high standard. Jeremy Whittington’s staging carries out the graphic novel’s theme, enhanced by Jesse Worley’s sound and projection design and Dan “Doc” Heggem’s lighting. The choreography by Courtnie Mercer and the costumes by Sarah Brookes also contribute to the overall polish of this impressive production.

Fun Home plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. at the Cellar Theater, 800 W. Ashby Place. Tickets can be obtained online or by calling (210) 733-7258.

Cover photo by Siggi Ragnar.

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