New Village Arts Rises Once Again to the Challenge

Giving a New Breath to the Musical Fun Home

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Rae Henderson-Gray. Photo Daren Scott
It always makes me very happy when regional theatres take on the challenge of producing a Tony award-winning musical like Fun Home that is not only powerful but has a strong background and foundation. Putting all these pieces together is not easy. New Village Arts continues to embrace these hurdles avanti like they did with their 2023 productions Singin' in the Rain and The Ferryman.

With music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, Fun Home premiered in 2013 at the Public Theatre and in 2015 on Broadway. Based on Alison Bechdel's 2006 graphic memoir in which she chronicles growing up in Pensilvannya, her strong bond and relationship with her dad Bruce (Brent Roberts), who is a teacher, renovator/restorer, and mortician. Her mother Helen (Sarah Alida LeClair) a former actress and a woman who as a defense mechanism, is detached from reality, and Alison's brothers Christian (Zayden McHardy) and John (Leo Jones). 

The one-act piece goes back and forth between adult Alison (Rae Henderson-Gray), college or medium Alison (Priya Richard), and Small Alison (Lena Palke) talking to the audience, asking questions, and reaching conclusions about her sexuality, her dad's sexuality, and his sudden death. Ethan Eldred's sound design held the essence of Fun Home with Alison's three stages that are surrounded by a wonderful soundtrack that has no bad songs and, at least for me, these particular songs, with Korrie Yamaoka's musical direction, gave space for the different cast members to excel like "Come to the Fun Home" where the three Bechdel kids -led through Patrick Mayuyu's choreography- shine bright and win over the audience, "Changing my Major" with a lovely rendition by Priya Richard, the moving "Ring of Keys" with Lena Palke and Rae Henderson-Gray where the house just came down as it is such a revealing and powerful song as well as the heartbreaking "Telephone Wire", raising the suspense with that awaited conversation between Alison and her father, very delicately delivered, full of heart by Henderson-Gray and Brent Roberts as well as Alison's conversation with her mother in "Days and Days", movingly portrayed by Sarah Alida LeClair. 

Lisette Velandia and Priya Richard. Photo DarenScott

The Bechdel home is Bruce's treasured space where he unloads the feelings while restoring, adding, and decorating. Yi-Chien Lee's set design used the space well to communicate that message in parallel with McKenna Foote's props design from the books, to the vintage radio, and candlesticks. Curtis Mueller's lighting design highlighted each and every frame of this musical. Alison grew up in the sixties and went to college in practically the eighties. Carmen Amon gave the key decades through the costume design and even included the signature top with stripes that small and middle Alison have been known for. 

Lena Palke and Brent Roberts. Photo Daren Scott

Kym Pappas's careful direction definitely was a guide for the cast members to embrace this powerful work and deliver. Along with Kandace Crystal's intimacy direction in delicate scenes where Alison is both discovering and owning her sexuality with college friend Joan (Lisette Velandia). Bruce also has a tense encounter with the handyman/babysitter Roy (Kris Bona). These scenes were paced and mindfully landed. For people who have yet to become familiar with this piece, all of these elements definitely make a difference. New Village Arts once again rose to the challenge by lending this musical another breath to reach new audiences and give another opportunity to those who know and love it.

Currently playing until March 3. For performance dates and times please click here

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