Fun Home is coming home. St. Louis will be welcoming the Tony Award-winning musical Fun Home to the Fox Theatre for the first time. The musical is produced by Fox Theatricals, a St. Louis-based Broadway producing organization.
Fun Home is based on the graphic memoir of the same name by Alison Bechdel, a cartoonist who is the author of the comic strips Dykes to Watch Out For. In the memoir, Bechdel details her childhood and youth in rural Pennsylvania, with the primary focus on her relationship with her father. The memoir also details Alison’s coming out as a lesbian and her father’s closet sexuality.
The book caught the attention of playwright Lisa Kron. She says the book is the type of book that when people read it, they buy it for other people they know.
“It’s an extremely layered, deep, incredible piece of work,” Kron says.
The book provides a “mine of material” for Kron and composer Jeanine Tesori. What drew Kron to the book was the way it was written, which she says is similar to her own writing: questioning her own narrative about someone else’s life. In this case, Alison’s questioning about who her father was.
“I could see the true nature of Alison’s story,” Kron says.
Kron was previously involved in plays before, but she had never written a musical. She says people had asked her for advice about writing a musical.
“My best advice is to write it with Jeanine Tesori, because she is a master of the form and an incredible collaborator,” he explains.
Bechdel knew of Kron’s work before Fun Home was conceived. Kron says Bechdel was the perfect person to adapt because she was very available. Bechdel gave Kron the journal she was keeping while she wrote her memoir and would be open to discussing details as Kron wrote the script. Other than that, Kron says Bechdel was hands-off and said the play was true to her life. Kron says that aspects of the musical are made up because the book is not constructed in a literary sense, but Bechdel gave them her blessing.
“She really gave us the project and trusted us with it,” Kron says. “For us, it was a great relief that she felt honored in what we did, that she felt the thing that she watched, even though that there were so many things that had been invented, felt true to her life and her work.”
Fun Home is produced Mike Isaacson and Kristin Caskey of Fox Theatricals, Jack Lane of STAGES St. Louis and Terry Schnuck. The musical was a mainstream production with a lesbian protagonist and there were questions asked of them of how a mainstream audience would react, but Kron says the producers were on board with the musical.
“Our producers were really amazing at understanding what this show was and claiming all of what was unique about it as a strength of the show,” he says.
Fun Home first premiered Off-Broadway in 2013. It won five Tony Awards in 2015 for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Leading Actor in a Musical and Best Direction of a Musical. Kron says winning the Tony Awards were a dream, but what it did most was answer the question: would mainstream audiences accept a musical with a lesbian protagonist?
“This was a question asked even after we had sold out and extended at the Public [Theatre], even after we had opened to great reviews and filled out audiences on Broadway,” Kron explains. “If we had not won those Tonys, people would have said it didn’t win because mainstream audiences weren’t ready for it. For me, the great relief of winning the Tonys was finally being able to put that question to bed.”
Kron has only been to St. Louis for a few days in the past. However, there is a strong connection for her and the entire production.
“The bonds of respect and affection and family connection we feel with each other are extremely strong,” Kron says.
Fun Home will run at the Fabulous Fox Theatre beginning November 15 and ending November 27. For more information about times and tickets, go to fabulousfox.com. V
by Bill Loellke