REVIEW: Fun Home - Original Broadway Cast
It’s pretty rare for a cast recording to get an update; sometimes it happens when a major new star takes over a show like Pearl Bailey and the all-black company in Hello, Dolly! or Vanessa Williams in Kiss of the Spider Woman, but a new Broadway recording for this season’s critically acclaimed Fun Home? That was a surprise. PS Classics recorded the autobiographical memory show, based on the graphic novel by lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel about her coming of age and her relationship with her closeted gay father, shortly after its lauded 2013 off-Broadway run at the Public Theater. With a terrific score by Jeanine Tesori (music) and Lisa Kron (lyrics), Fun Home was rightly hailed as one of the best new musicals in recent years and quickly went on to be shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in 2014.
Despite the serious thematics of the piece, the musical, whose story seamlessly moves between past and present, found its way to Broadway this season (now staged in the round). With its complex use of underscoring and its richness of melody, the score is most evocative of Tesori’s other wonderful musical Violet and is perhaps her best work since that show. The original recording of Fun Home was wonderful, so why the new version, you might be asking? Is it much different from what preceded it, and for those who own the 2013 recording, do you need this?
The new album isn’t so much new as expanded. It includes several extended passages of dialogue that are quite affecting and help flesh out the story a bit more for the listener. A minor new song “Party Dress” has been added to the score while “Al for Short” for Small Alison has since been cut from the show. The new recording recycles some tracks from the first release but also features some new cast members. Tony-nominated Emily Skeggs has taken over as Medium Alison and scores big with her number “Changing My Major.” The other key players (all of them also Tony-nominated) remain equally strong. Sydney Lucas shines as Small Alison (especially in “Ring of Keys”) and Judy Kuhn is simply devastating in “Days and Days.” Beth Malone and Michael Cerveris are both outstanding as adult Alison and Bruce, and offer heart-wrenching performances, resulting in a recording that packs a real emotional wallop by its conclusion.
While it’s nice to have a recording that captures the Broadway incarnation of this show, the changes are, in the scope of things, so minimal that only “completists” who already own the off-Broadway recording will feel the need to buy this new version. But for folks who haven’t yet added this show to their collection, the new Broadway version of Fun Home is a must-have.
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