We’re Thankful That ‘Fun Home’ Is At The Fabulous Fox In St. Louis

“Fun Home” is funny in a lot of ways. And if you think your family gatherings are complicated or even suspenseful — Hello, Thanksgiving! — wait until you see this show at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis.

Fun Home” is based on the acclaimed graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, with its title coming from the nickname for her family’s business, a funeral home in the Appalachian hill country. And that ought to tell you right away what kind of deliciously grim irony you’re in for.

But it’s also the surprisingly bright story of a daughter’s quest for her father’s love, made fascinating by the fact that both are gay — he, secretly; and she, during a period of great discoveries — in a story adapted by lyricist Lisa Kron and composer Jean Tesori. Sam Gold directs this raw but artful musical of a father and daughter, set in the repressive 1970s. Neither can talk openly about their sexuality, and yet teenage perseverance makes the struggle to love and be loved universal.

Karen Eilbacher plays Joan, Allison’s first love. “At the heart of it, it’s about family, and your memories of family — whether it’s a lack thereof, or you’re well-integrated into your family — and what those memories have come to serve in your life, ten, twenty, fifty years later,” she says.

And, in a year of holier-than-thou political campaigns, “Fun Home” is almost blindingly honest and direct.  Eilbacher spoke with ALIVE from Chicago, the previous stop on the tour. “‘Fun Home’ brings theater to life, [its] walking truth, living truth. And it’s literally, like, can I breathe and walk on stage in the realist sense. There’s no difference between it and real life,” Eilbacher says.

The show must also have its darker moments, too.

“Fear gets in the way,” Eilbacher explains. “Audiences really respond to the love between these two young women, but again, we come face to face with fear, and sometimes you don’t know where it comes from. And it’s important to make more space inside yourself so you can bring others in.

“It’s really tantalizing, and there’s just this energy in the theater. And at the stage door, people are coming by quite consistently to share their genuine heartfelt thanks,” she continues.

The touring production of “Fun Home,” Broadway’s “Best Musical” Tony-winner in 2015, runs through November 27 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre.

Featured photo of Karen Eilbacher and Abby Corrigan by Joan Marcus.

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