The Queering of the Musical

Fun Home’s themes of sexual identity repressed and released are universal. Born in the 1930s, a gay father leads a closeted life, consumed by a debilitating fear that his secret will be discovered. His lesbian daughter, free in the 1970s and ’80s to be herself without shame or fear, pursues an artistic career chronicling her own coming out in print. The difference between these two generations is a stark but liberating lesson in the value of personal freedom and the devastating price of prejudice for individuals, for families — for all of us. But in 2013, when Alison Bechdel’s novel was included as a reading requirement for freshmen at the College of Charleston, the South Carolina House of Representatives cut the college’s funding in retribution. Author Bechdel pointed out that Fun Home ‘is, after all, about the toll that this sort of small-mindedness takes on people’s lives.’”

Medium Alison (Erin Kommor) in a scene
from Fun Home (Photo by: Kevin Berne)
Bruce Bechdel (James Lloyd Reynolds) finds his
children playing in a coffin in a scene from Fun Home
(Photo by: Kevin Berne)

“The show is very dependent on its intimacy, but it also has this kind of ambition to the storytelling in using multiple perspectives, multiple timelines, and simultaneity while also maintaining a very real sense of vulnerability and fragility. A proscenium changes adult Alison’s relationship to the show. In the round, she participates with the audience in a certain way because they’re always given these multiple perspectives. With the proscenium, I think the character experiences her memories very differently.The really fun thing about doing the tour was that it felt like I was always making the show better. I knew everything I needed to know to make the design really work for the show.”

Erin Kommor, Ruth Keith, and Moira Stone portray
Alison Bechdel in Fun Home (Photo by: Kevin Berne)
Alison (Moira Stone) goes for a drive with her father
(James Lloyd Reynolds) in a scene from Fun Home
(Photo by: Kevin Berne)
The Bechdel children (Dylan Kento Curtis, Oliver Copaken
Yellin, and Ruth Keith) in a scene from Fun Home
(Photo by: Kevin Berne)

“The support of Kelley early on in my career made it just that: a career. Until then, I was really a music director and arranger who was composing on the side. Kelley’s willingness to take a chance on an unknown writer changed the way I saw myself. A writer who conducted, as opposed to the other way around.”

“He truly was a boy from Oz: eternally young and from a magical place of his own creation. That he was a true friend to Judy Garland only gives him greater Godhead (a playful Dionysus to her thundering Zeus). Carole Bayer Sager’s recent autobiography becomes an hysterical page turner whenever she talks about Peter — her fondness, her love, her admiration spilling off the page in one silly anecdote after another. So his story becomes legend, enshrined in this musical with all its good will, unending energy, spirit and hope — all testament to the man who might have called Australia home but brought Hawaiian shirts, high-kicking energy, and that glorious smile to America. His life reflects the queer movement, from coming out to finding acceptance to struggling with a horrifying disease, but his memory is only joyful.”

Cameron Zener (Young Peter) and Justin Genna
(Peter Allen) in a scene from The Boy From Oz
(Photo by: David Wilson)
John Charles Quimpo (Chris Bell) and Justin Genna
(Peter Allen) in a scene from The Boy from Oz
(Photo by: David Wilson)
Justin Genna (Peter Allen) with Justin Lopez
(Greg Connell) in a scene from The Boy From Oz
(Photo by: David Wilson)
Justin Genna (Peter Allen) with Leandra Ramm
(Judy Garland) in a scene from The Boy From Oz
(Photo by: David Wilson)

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blogs about film, theatre, and opera on “My Cultural Landscape.” His opera column, “Tales of Tessi Tura,” ran for 15 years in San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter.

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