Arts & Culture

SPSCC’s ‘Fun Home’ makes a big impression on local theater lovers

The three Allisons unite on stage for the finale of SPSCC’s “Fun Home”: from left, Medium Allison played by Josie DeRosier, Small Allison played by Lola May Havens, and Allison (grown up) played by Heather Matthews.
The three Allisons unite on stage for the finale of SPSCC’s “Fun Home”: from left, Medium Allison played by Josie DeRosier, Small Allison played by Lola May Havens, and Allison (grown up) played by Heather Matthews. Courtesy of SPSCC

Local theater-goers are abuzz about South Puget Sound Community College’s production of “Fun Home,” the 2015 Tony-winning musical about a graphic novelist who revisits her childhood to make sense of its mysteries.

Running through Saturday, the tragicomic musical — based on Allison Bechdel’s 2006 autobiographical graphic novel about her coming out as a lesbian and coming to terms with her childhood — has been greeted with laughter, tears and standing ovations.

“Wasn’t that the best ever?” a beaming Dave Smith of Olympia said as he exited the show Saturday night.

And he was far from alone in his enthusiasm for the South Sound premiere of Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesoro’s musical, which won five Tony Awards and was described by New York Times critic Ben Brantley as “a rare beauty.”

Audiences exiting the theater last weekend were talking to friends and strangers alike about what they’d seen: the acting, the singing, the lyrics, the dialogue, the emotions.

The Bechdel family’s story is told through pivotal moments, the scenes grown-up Allison (Heather Matthews) is drawing for her novel. She watches and sometimes interacts with her past selves, Small Allison (Lola May Havens, 12, a sixth-grader at Washington Middle School) and college-age Medium Allison (Josie DeRosier).

The production also stars Amanda Stevens and Ben Matthews (Heather Matthews’ husband) in the emotionally and vocally demanding roles of Allison’s parents, who battle with one another and aren’t sure how to cope with their daughter’s passions and preferences.

It’s an often-intense tale, leavened by such moments as the Bechdel kids’ creating a commercial for the “fun home,” their name for the funeral home the family owns, and Allison’s joyous singing when she finds her first girlfriend: “I’m changing my major to Joan/I’m changing my major to sex with Joan.”

“It is ‘you will regret it if you don’t see it’ good,” Meghan Goodman, often seen on the stages of Olympia Family Theater and Olympia Little Theater, wrote in a Facebook post. “It is, without a doubt and without hesitation, the absolute best musical the South Sound has seen in years. … The emotional depth of the cast and the story is heart wrenching and utterly enveloping.”

Theater critic Alec Clayton called the show “one of the best plays you’ll see this year.”

Director Lauren Love, the college’s drama professor, fell for the show when the Broadway touring company stopped at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle in 2017.

“It was truly the first play I’d ever seen where I felt the power of representation, of seeing a character I identified with on stage,” she told The Olympian. “It was like seeing my coming of age coming alive in front of me.”

So eager was she to direct it that she inadvertently scooped Harlequin Productions, which will produce the show in October 2020.

“I was waiting for it,” she said. “As soon as it became available, I got the rights.”

‘Fun Home’

  • What: South Puget Sound Community College’s production of the 2015 Tony winner for Best Musical — a story about a woman coming of age, coming out and coming to terms with her complicated childhood — has theater-goers starry-eyed and teary-eyed.
  • When: 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
  • Where: The Minnaert Center for the Arts at SPSCC, 2011 Mottman Road SW, Olympia
  • Tickets: $12 and $15; free for SPSCC students, faculty and staff
  • More information: 360-753-8586, washingtoncenter.org
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