A musical about a dysfunctional family, coming out and what it means to empower yourself beyond where you come from, Fun Home has been the work that has touched plenty of lives. Based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, this theatrical work is adapted for the stage by Lisa Kron as well as music by Jeanine Tesori.
Running at an hour 45 minutes with no intermission, this musical presented by Pangdemonium is short and sweet, in comparison to many others. A winner of Five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, this work definitely seemed promising to experience as this will be its Singapore debut.
About a portrayal of Alison herself through the various stages of her life with her family in rural Pennsylvania, we witness scenes of her growing up within the family home that never seems to change. As the relationship between her volatile father and herself begin to slowly take shape as she’s older, it unravels a discovery that will change Alison’s life as well as the rest of her family for good.
As every other Pangdemonium production out there, the set is stunning and an incredible structure of maximising stage space. Built by Arina International Holding Pte Ltd, and designed by Philip Engleheart, there were many possibilities given with the architecture of the house. The rooms slide in and out, unveiling of secret door frames and blind spots make the scene transitions interesting to watch.
The design by Lighting Designer James Tan was also brilliant, and seamless in aiding the audience to identify which moments are flashbacks, especially when characters Alison and small Alison were in a scene together, and the different spaces in the house. The live band consisting of Daniel Chai, Brandon Wong, Rizal Sanip, Jonathan Lim, Joelle He and Tang I Shyan were invisible the whole time but had impeccable timing in accompanying the songs and dances happening on stage.
Visually and aesthetically pleasing, this production of Fun Home directed by Tracie Pang had a lot of beautiful moments that can be captured in picture frames. The use of space, lights and costumes all came together effortlessly. Everything looked really good.
However, there was something that just didn’t sit right through the show.
Perhaps it was the lack of energy for a Sunday matinee or just nerves and lack of stamina with some of the cast, but the pacing felt slow and draggy. Every moment seemed to last the same amount of time, the rhythm too consistent, and by the end of it, the climax didn’t hit hard enough for the show to resonate strongly. The emotions were sparse and shallow, almost.
However, the show did have certain strong moments but not enough to carry through the entire musical.
Elena Wang as Medium Alison made a strong impression, especially with her number Changing My Major. A voice that hits all her musical notes with ease and a natural stage presence, she carried her character well and it was apparent how much she was enjoying herself on stage. The character’s quirks and her comedic timing worked well.
Young Damien Weber shone as John, the youngest member of the Bechdel family. He completely stole the show when performing Come to the Fun Home with his dance moves and charming smile. His confidence was infectious.
It was a pity that Benjamin Kheng did not manage to show much of his abilities on stage this time round, and the characters he played did not make much of an impact to the storytelling. This could be said about Gail Belmonte‘s Joan as well.
Despite the questionable pace of action and other aspects, Fun Home is a musical done for all the right reasons. Maybe it will just keep getting better with all the runs it is going to get until October 15th.
Date: 29th September – 15th October 2017
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre
Time: Tuesday to Saturday – 8pm, Saturday & Sunday – 3pm, 15th Oct – 8pm
Rating: R18 (Homosexual content)
Admission: From $30 (Concession rates available. Get your tickets here.)
Photographs courtesy of Pangdemonium. Photo credit: Crispian Chan.