March 23, 2015 / 8:34 PM / 3 years ago

Musical 'Fun Home' gives voice to first lesbian lead character

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Broadway is getting its first lesbian lead character next month when “Fun Home,” an award-winning musical about family, sexuality and acceptance, opens next month.

Based on the best-selling, graphic memoir, “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” by writer/cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the coming-of-age musical examines her dysfunctional family and relationship with her late father, a closeted gay man who ran a funeral home and taught English in rural Pennsylvania.

The musical, a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for drama, begins previews at the Circle in the Square Theatre on April 19 after a sold-out, extended run Off Broadway.

“It is the first lesbian lead character in the history of musical theater and that is a story that needs to be told,” director Sam Gold said in an interview. “It feels like a very good time in our culture to give voice to that character.”

Gold believes the themes of the musical, Bechdel’s coming-out as a lesbian and the father-daughter story, will resonate with audiences.

Multiple Tony nominee Lisa Kron adapted the book and provided the lyrics to music by Jeanine Tesori.

Gold is also staging the show, whose title is the family’s shortened name for funeral home, in the Circle’s round theater, which is a rarity for a musical and will give the audience a different perspective.

“What it means is you are inside the show, with the characters,” he said. “You have the same relationship to the actors as the actors have to each other.”

Three actresses play Bechdel - as a child, college student and an adult - in the non-linear play. Beth Malone is the adult Bechdel and Emily Skeggs and Sydney Lucas play younger versions of the author as she revisits her childhood, comes to terms with her sexuality and deals with her fraught relationship with her father.

“All of these things are swirling around ‘Fun Home’ as we tell the story of the detrimental cost of shame, and that is ultimately what this is about, and the redemption that comes from forgiveness and living in truth,” said Malone.

Tony winner Michael Cerveris (“Assassins”) plays Bruce Bechdel, a brilliant man with an obsession for restoring the family’s Victorian home and whose sudden death leaves unanswered questions.

“I think people are able to identify with the struggles of these characters, the aspects of being a family,” he said. “They are not focusing solely on Alison’s or Bruce’s sexual orientation.”

Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Richard Chang

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