Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir Fun Home was adapted as a musical (with a book by Lisa Kron and music by Jeanine Tesori), and won a Tony Award for Best Musical in 2015. I remember hearing NPR interviews with the creators at the time (including previews of several of the musical numbers), but as far as I could tell we've never discussed it here. It just opened in Charlotte, NC this week, produced by the local Actor's Theater, so I went to see it last night.

It's a really good show, and captures the spirit of the book very well. I read it so long ago that I honestly don't remember it in detail, but I doubt the script attempted to follow the book in detail. And the story was non-linear anyway, moving between past and present as Bechdel strove to understand growing up under her father's influence.

The musical does the same. The adult Bechdel is onstage as narrator primarily (although she is drawn into the action a bit towards the end), and two other actors portray her as a girl and as a college student--which was when she finally acknowledged herself as a lesbian, and came out to her parents. Her mother and father appear throughout (there's no particular attempt to age them), and the early family life scenes include her three brothers. 

If you've read the book, you know there is a reason it was subtitled "A Family Tragicomic." The musical does not play down the tragic elements, or the family drama. But there are a few musical numbers that mainly exist to lighten the mood a bit. The one where the kids act out a commercial for the funeral home is a hoot. When Bechdel takes her first lesbian lover there's a fun song titled "I'm Changing My Major To Joan" (which I remembered from the radio preview, but it takes on added dimension with Bechdel in her underwear singing it to her sleeping lover).

It's certainly not material that is an obvious choice for musical adaptation. Bechdel herself was skeptical, and was not involved in the play's creation, although she loved the final result. The fact that it works so well is remarkable, and I recommend seeing the show if you get a chance.

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