Many aspects of the adult world can be positively baffling to kids. So imagine your confusion if you began to suspect at an early age that you were attracted to your own gender.
Now, factor in that your dad is secretly gay, comes out of the closet and commits suicide – and multiply your bafflement tenfold.
That’s the life scenario of Alison Bechdel. After growing up with such emotional tumult, Bechdel became a cartoonist who, at age 46, wrote a graphic memoir documenting her life, titling it “Fun Home.”
Three years later, Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori adapted Bechdel’s story for the musical stage – first, off-Broadway (2013), then Broadway (2015) and, starting last year, the first U.S. national tour. That’s the version at Segerstrom Center through Sunday, Aug. 6, and to call it stunning is to understate.
In a sense, understatement is the approach Kron and Tesori deploy with skill, letting the impact of Bechdel’s singular life story do the heavy lifting. In fact, the duo are considerably sensitive to the stormy waters Bechdel was forced to navigate.
In director Sam Gold’s well-cast touring production, Bechdel’s intensely personal story emerges in the show’s score and its 27 songs; in the way the adult Alison (Kate Shindle), at age 43, looks back upon her life and struggles to make sense of it; and in Alison’s ongoing quest to understand herself and her exacting, controlling father, Bruce (Robert Petkoff).
Their testy relationship becomes the key to Bechdel’s self-image – first as a little girl (Carly Gold), then as a college student (Abby Corrigan) on the verge of her sexual awakening.
Bruce is strikingly brilliant, literate and accomplished. He teaches English at the local high school in the Bechdels’ Pennsylvania home town; runs the family business, the Bechdel Funeral Home (which he calls the “fun home”); and pursues his passion of restoring historical homes.
He’s also obsessively demanding of his family, whether forcing them to make a restored Victorian home spotless before showing the house or badgering little Alison to wear a dress to a party when she’s…