By Sheri Radford
A funeral home may seem like a strange place to set a musical, but that’s not the end of strange things afoot in Fun Home, the Tony Award–winning show based on the popular memoir/graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. As a grown-up Alison looks back on her childhood years and first months away at university, her English-teacher father’s troubling behaviour makes more sense in retrospect. His interest in his young male students. His trouble with the law. His ultimate suicide shortly after Alison comes out as a lesbian. And, permeating all of Alison’s memories, her mother’s unhappiness.
Jaime MacLean portrays the youngest version of Alison with a charm and talent that belie her young age. She, along with her two perky onstage siblings (played by Glen Gordon and Nolen Dubuc), brings the house down with a showstopper of a rendition of “Come to the Fun Home” (“We take dead bodies every day of the week / So you’ve got no reason to roam / Use the Bechdel Funeral Home”).
Kelli Ogmundson brings a touching honestly to the portrayal of university-aged Alison, especially in “Changing My Major,” sung immediately after her first sexual experience with another woman. Adult Alison, in the ever-capable hands of Sara-Jeanne Hosie, is the perfect combination of confident yet still haunted by memories. Eric Craig deftly handles the most challenging role in the show, that of Alison’s tormented father. Rounding out the cast are Janet Gigliotti as Alison’s long-suffering mother, who shines in the gut-wrenching “Days and Days;” Sara Vickruck, a veritable force of nature in the role of Joan, Alison’s first love; and Nick Fontaine in a handful of smaller roles.
Despite its heartbreaking subject matter, Fun Home is a hilarious show filled with tunes that get toes tapping. Don’t miss it, at the Granville Island Stage until March 10.