DIVA TALK: Tony Nominee and Fun Home Star Judy Kuhn Ponders Her Dream Roles

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01 Nov 2013

Judy Kuhn
Judy Kuhn
Denise Winters

News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

Judy Kuhn
Actress and singer Judy Kuhn, she of the exquisite voice and three Tony nominations, is on a roll: The gifted performer was seen last season as the ill-fated Fosca in the critically acclaimed, much-extended Classic Stage Company production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Passion. Now, Kuhn can be seen in the critically acclaimed, much-extended Public Theater production of Fun Home, the world-premiere musical based on the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel. The Jeanine Tesori-Lisa Kron work, which dramatizes lesbian cartoonist Bechdel's coming-of-age and her relationship with her closeted gay father, casts the star of Chess, Les Miserables, Rags and She Loves Me as Alison's mother, Helen Bechdel.

"I’ve had the best experience working on this piece," Kuhn told me during the musical's preview period. "I play Helen, who is Alison’s mother, and in the show Alison is played by three actresses, one when she’s nine, one at 19, and one the adult Alison, who is trying to find a way to tell her father’s story. We are all her memories of her childhood and her growing up at this moment in her life, and the year that she was 19, when everything happened that changed her life. It goes back and forth in time, and I, as Helen, only relate to small Alison, as she’s known, and medium Alison. But I love her. She’s just a really complicated [character, who] lived this very difficult life in this house [and] very much tries to maintain the kind of mythology of the family, and hold the family together until, basically, she can’t anymore."

About librettist Kron, who is making her debut as a lyricist with the Sam Gold-directed production, Kuhn said, "Her writing, I think, is extraordinary in this. It’s not an easy book to adapt, to figure out what the theatrical version of this graphic novel is because a graphic novel is obviously very visual. They decided that they couldn’t put the book on stage; they had to find the theatrical equivalent of these panels, of these snapshots of Alison’s life, how the adult Alison would tell her story in a theatrical form. And, I think they really found it.

"I always knew Lisa was a great writer, but what people will learn from this is that she’s an amazing lyricist," Kuhn added. "I mean, her lyrics are great, truly great lyrics. The way the music and the book are woven together is so seamless. And, Jeanine’s music is amazing, and Sam Gold’s direction is amazing. This team collaborated in a way I’ve never seen a team collaborate. I think Jeanine said the other day, 'We really worked as one,' and I think that it shows in what you see onstage."

Diva Talk also asked the Broadway favorite to select her dream stage roles in musical and/or nonmusical productions. Kuhn said it was an interesting challenge "for so many reasons, partly because I feel like I'm back on the boards a little bit, and yet I'm a different person and I'm re-aligning my thoughts about the kind of roles I should play."

Click through to see the roles Kuhn chose and her thoughts about each part.



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