The musical Fun Home debuted on Sunday, and with it, the first lesbian lead character to appear in a Broadway production.
Based off the best-selling 2006 Allison Bechdel graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, the story follows the lesbian writer and cartoonist’s dysfunctional childhood in rural Pennsylvania, and is being praised by critics.
Set in a funeral home run by Bechdel’s secretly gay father, the show opened at the Circle in the Square Theater on Sunday night, but was already a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for drama and consistently sold-out before premiering on Broadway.
Entertainment Weekly describes the show as the hand-drawn story of a girl who grew up in a gloomy Victorian playing hide-and-seek in caskets with her brothers and trying to solve the mystery of her parents’ unhappy marriage, (her father is said to have had secret sexual liaisons with men, some of them teenagers).
An adult Bechdel, portrayed by actress Beth Malone, says during the production: “Dad and I both grew up in the same small Pennsylvania town, and he was gay and I was gay, and he killed himself, and I became a lesbian cartoonist.”
Three different actresses show the character at three different times in her life, as she comes to terms with her sexuality and a troubled relationship with her father.
EW says, “A little bit of nuance inevitably gets lost when subject matter this dark is set to song; death and deep family schisms, after all, aren’t always fit for jazz hands. But like the book, Fun Home manages to use an oft-unserious medium to deliver something seriously, singularly moving.”
Deadline describes the show as, “Fun Home is a marvelous achievement, full of humor as well as rue. Its 100 transporting minutes fly by and then it’s gone — not to be forgotten.”
“New! Fresh! Original! We toss those kudos around a lot in this business. (It’s like calling everyone “darling.”) But “Fun Home” really earns the praise,” Variety’s Marilyn Stasio says.
“It’s unconventional grist, to be sure, and musical theater is better for it,” says the New York’s Daily News. “The material is handled with such delicacy and expertise that it speaks universally about big things that matter: life, love, family, surviving.”