ON THE RECORD: Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron's Fun Home

By Steven Suskin
23 Feb 2014

Kuhn in Fun Home.
Photo by Joan Marcus

This is not to say that Fun Home doesn't have its share of serious songs, and they are stunning. "Maps" has the older Alison trying to define her father and "Telephone Wire" has her reliving that final afternoon before his suicide. "Edges of the World" is harrowing, as Bruce — who here, finally, addresses his daughter as "Al" — unravels and steps in front of a truck on Route 150. Most riveting, for me, is "Days and Days." Helen, who has been present but absent throughout the play (and throughout the kids' lives), is forced to admit the truth about her acceptance of her husband's secrets. "We polish and we shine/We rearrange and realign/Everything is balanced and serene/Like chaos never happens if it's never seen." It is a staggering piece of musical theatre writing.

Helen was played by Judy Kuhn, who as an actor seemed to fade into the background of the Fun Home until that moment when she sat down at the kitchen chair to sing her solo. In this, Kuhn was altogether as stunning as when she did something similar in the first- act finale of Rags in 1986. All the players, onstage at the Public and on the CD, are exceptional. Michael Cerveris was Bruce, giving one of his finest performances ever. (In his wig and glasses, he looked so much like a suburban English teacher — circa 1970 — that it took a while for me to realize it was Cerveris.) The three Alisons were equally powerful. Beth Malone, as the adult Alison, is the glue that holds the show together. Sydney Lucas, as Small Alison, is one of the most assured child actors we've seen; her delivery of "Al for Short" and "Ring of Keys" are pure delight, as is Alexandra Socha's exuberant "Changing My Major." (Roberta Colindrez as Alison's girlfriend, and Noah Hinsdale and Griffin Birney as the brothers, have limited opportunities on the CD but were equally delightful in performance.)

The perfection was enhanced by Gold's staging, the perfect sets and costumes by David Zinn, and the work of their colleagues. Fun Home, which opened Oct. 22, 2013, was the best musical on the New York stage of 2013 — far outclassing the competition — and is thus far the best musical of the 2013-14 season. Let us hope that this production transfers intact, as there is a widespread audience that will embrace it. In the meanwhile, do listen to the CD and welcome to the Fun Home.

(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes," "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," “Second Act Trouble,” the “Opening Night on Broadway” books, and "The Book of Mormon: The Testament of a Broadway Musical." He also writes the Aisle View blog at The Huffington Post. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com.)