“Fun Home” – Phoenix Theatre

Theater Review – October 14, 2018


Hormel Theatre, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix Theatre has become an amazing local theater that consistently presents Broadway caliber productions of recent New York hits and classic shows.  Its latest triumph is “Fun Home,” a new style musical that explores issues usually avoided in conventional tuners.  The PT production is presented in an illustrious Robert Kolby Harper sharply-defined staging that features gifted local performers highlighted with talented imported players who develop the musical’s complex characters as these personalities explore non-traditional back stories.

“Fun Home” debuted on Broadway in 2013 after earlier development at the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab.  Based on Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical book about her growing-up years, it is enhanced with a refreshing Jeanine Tesori score.  Lisa Kron’s thoughtful book and perceptive lyrics bring the tale to vibrant life as it explores Alison’s dysfunctional family life at three points as she grew up.  It looks at her father, Bruce, and his hidden life, her mother, Helen, and her tolerance of her husband’s secret, and her two brothers.

Alison narrates the memoir during these significant developmental periods as she explains how her upbringing crafted the person she became.  It is not an easy life and because of her father’s non-conventional background the show is often difficult to watch as the secret is tackled with honest clarity.  Her father’s unique individuality and his frequent outbursts as he searches for excuses for his lifestyle challenge the family.  “Fun Home” explores how Bruce’s life impacted Alison in particular.

Bringing off this mature musical with superb believability makes PT’s “Fun Home” a telling tale.  Impeccable casting explains how the family’s challenges impact each person.  As the current Alison, Becca Ayers reveals the difficulties of growing into a viable woman with her background.  As the medium Alison, Kaitlyn Russell artfully explains how the unique thing she learns about her character evolves.  As the child Alison, Olivia Fearey developed a convoluted person with remarkable depth.  As the challenged father, Bruce, Rusty Ferracane gives a performance of great range as he beautifully conveys this unique person.  As Alison’s trusting but deceived Mother, Helen, Elyse Wolf is astonishing.  Late in the play, she delivers the song “Days” where she blurts out how she endured her betrayal.  It is a show-stopping moment.

“Fun Home” is an amazing show that explores an issue that confronts many families and it does so believably and without musical theater glossiness.  The remarkable Phoenix Theatre production provides an amazing theater event.  It continues through December 2.  For tickets, contact the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A