To say that “Fun Home” is the best new musical of last season (when it premiered Off-Broadway at the Public Theater) or this season (now that it’s transferred to Broadway’s Circle in the Square) would be an understatement.
Directed by Sam Gold, with music by Jeanine Tesori (“Violet”) and lyrics and book by Lisa Kron, “Fun Home” is a thoroughly dynamic piece that is just as emotionally piercing, good-humored and enjoyable as it is sharp, focused and culturally conscious.
It belongs on the list of the smartest, most innovative musicals written in the Sondheim tradition of the past decade, such as “Spring Awakening,” “Next to Normal” and “The Scottsboro Boys.”
Based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, Alison (Beth Malone), a lesbian cartoonist in her early 40s, looks back on growing up in 1970s suburban Pennsylvania.
She specifically explores her complicated relationship with her father (Michael Cerveris), an English teacher who moonlights as a funeral home director and home restorer. He is also a closeted gay man who violently committed suicide.
A multilayered memoir, Alison observes versions of herself from childhood (Sydney Lucas) and her late teens (Emily Skeggs), reconstructing how her father would initiate relationships with young men in the neighborhood and randomly lash out at family members in frustration.
In an unforgettable moment, the young, tomboyish Alison notices a butch-looking woman inside a diner and expresses the kinship she feels with the woman in the beautiful song “Keys” (referencing the ring of keys the woman carries).
In another moment, Alison goes from watching “The Partridge Family” to dreaming that her family can share in the happiness she sees on the television show.
Unlike the Off-Broadway production, the show is now staged in the round, which adds intimacy (making you feel as if you are eavesdropping on the family) and reflects the show’s nonlinear style (with memories from different time periods in constant collision).
The performances are extraordinary all around, from Lucas’ excitement to Cerveris’ intensity and Judy Kuhn’s sad resignation as Alison’s mother, who has tried to hold the family together despite her husband’s erratic behavior.
If you go: “Fun Home” plays an open run at Circle in the Square. 235 West 50th St., FunHomeBroadway.com.