Winner of the 2015 Tony for Best Musical, Fun Home is coming to TPAC’s Jackson Hall next week beginning Tuesday, October 10th running through Sunday, October 15th. The show is based on the life of Allison Bechdel, following three pivotal points in her life. The first being when she was a child growing up with a closeted father in their family business, the local funeral home. It follows her through college when she starts finding out more about her own sexuality, leading up to her being a successful novelist trying to figure out her next big move.
The show is dripping in accolades, not just winning one Tony, but five. It also won five other awards in its Off Broadway run before it made it to Broadway. It is the first Broadway musical to feature a lesbian protagonist for its lead role.
We got a chance to talk to a member of the cast, Robert Hagar, by phone a couple days ago to tell us all about the upcoming show. Here’s that conversation:
Let's just dive right in. Your name is Robert Hagar, and you are playing four roles: Roy, Mark, Pete, and Bobby Jeremy. That’s a lot of roles!
Yeah. It's plenty because I am kind of bringing a little bit of the outside world to this story, in a way. And, I play alongside the dad, Bruce Bechdel played by Robert Petkoff.
So, I'm more part of his storyline because the first role that I play is Pete. He is a mourner that comes into the funeral home with Bruce. I'm looking for a casket for my mother who had just passed away. So, you get to see a little bit of compassion from Bruce with this scene.
Then, my other character is Roy who is this guy, a twenty something... And, he used to be Bruce's student in an English class, because Bruce is also was an English teacher also. But, then later in life they kind of ... he used to do yard work for him ... and then a little bit of … I guess don't want to get into romantic tension they went through, but he became his lover later on. So, that's the scenes that you get when I play the role of Roy with Bruce.
Then, the other one is Mark who's a young teenager. I play a junior in high school. And, I just get a ride home, but it's a little bit of a danger when Bruce realizes, "Oh wait a second. This kid is much younger than what I should be interested in." And, I play that little scene there with him too.
Then, the other one Bobby Jeremy's just kind of like ... small Allison. I don't know if you know much of how the show is structured. The role of Allison is divided into three parts. It's adult Allison who's more the narrator. Then, it's medium Allison who is Allison when she was in college. And, then small Allison,
So, small Allison is a little girl like a ten year old girl who is obsessed with this TV show that's very much like the Brady Bunch kind of thing. I'm from the TV. I come to life in her imagination about this perfect family, this perfect awesome song to dance to. I'm the singer for that moment there and that's Bobby Jeremy. It's a little variety of different personalities here that I play.
Sounds like they are keeping you busy! So, let’s talk about the show itself. It's based on a graphic novel?
Yes. By Allison Bechdel.
Yeah! It’s based on the graphic novel about her life growing up with a gay father and her becoming a lesbian.
Okay. So if there's one show coming to TPAC this season, this is going to be the gay show.
So, this is a huge Tony Award winner. It's a big deal for us to have this show. Let’s talk about why it's a big deal for us to see this show.
Yeah. Well, I mean number one it's the first musical to win a Tony that has a lead lesbian woman as the main character. It just touches on families. It deals with homosexual and gay themes, but it really is more about communicating with your family, family issues, and things that are relatable to everyone.
I think it's just important to see this kind of family that goes through a lot. But, I see a lot of my family in theirs. It doesn't have to be the fact that it's a gay show or a lesbian woman going through transition. It's realizing what kind of relationship did I have with my dad. What kind of relationship did I have with siblings or my mom? And, how did that impact my decisions of what my career should be, or what I want to do in life, or how I should raise my children if I were to have some in the future?
It kind of triggers up that way. And, that's what is so important about the show and the fact that it's being told, on top of that, by a lesbian character who ends up being super successful despite the turmoil that her family went through during her upbringing.
I think seeing that is good for people who are feeling doubt about their direction in life. I think it's just good to see somebody struggle and be successful with the life choices that they make. And, I think this show embodies that a lot.
Wonderful. I love that. So, what is the one thing in Fun Home that we have to pay attention to? What is the one thing we have to see?
That's a good one. There's a lot to see for sure. But, I think it's really interesting to pay attention to ... so Kate Shindle plays the role of Allison. She is the narrator. She floats around. All these memories are in her head.
As we're doing the show, it's her coming up with the idea of writing this graphic novel. If you catch her wherever she is, she's always on stage, which is awesome because we're her memories. So, if you catch her, if you're engulfed in a scene, or you're seeing something, and then you see in the corner of your eye on stage seeing her reactions are pretty awesome. She is with us even though she's not. That gives you a lot of storytelling as well. I think I would keep an eye out on her as much as you can.
But, really just follow her following the story. It's three different stages of her life. It starts with the little girl, small Allison. And, then it's just funny how it just morphs itself into all these memories. And, it's three important parts in her life you know. So, I always say keep an eye on Kate Shindle (Allison) on stage.
Great advice. I’ll definitely have to do that. So what else do we need to know to get ready for this show?
I think just have a good dinner and come to the show. That's really what I would say. I don't like saying expect this or expect that. It moves people in very different ways depending on where you come from. Taking this show on the road has been very eye opening of, "Wow. We can really change people despite of what their political status is or what their religious assumptions are."
It's more visceral than thinking, "Oh, it's a gay show" right. So, I think you should take the chance, take the risk of having a great dinner before the show, and come enjoy the show, and just see it as who you are. It's a very good coming of age story and a success story too.
Wonderful. I can't wait to see you in this show. Been looking forward to it for months. It's the one show I've been really like excited that's coming. So, I'm really glad we're getting to do this.
After talking a few more minutes about how excited he is about coming to Nashville and me recommending my two favorite places to recommend to gays from elsewhere, Play Dance Bar and Monell’s, we hung up.
This show is going to be something no one will want to miss. The pedigree of the show is worth the ticket price. I for one am dying to see what one of the best reviewed, most awarded shows of the decade is all about. There is no doubt we are in for a big treat at TPAC. Tickets are available now.