Fun Home: The Musical, Manila (Review)

15th November, 2016. 2:48pm

funhome

Photo c/o: LeaSalonga.com

I came to watch Fun Home with zero knowledge about the musical. I know that it’s an “LGBTQ show”, but I don’t really know anything about the plot or the songs. I didn’t bother checking it on the Internet, nope. I went to the theater not knowing what to expect, and I’m so glad I didn’t go on YouTube to listen to the songs or find out more about it before today’s show.

Fun Home is a musical about the graphic novel artist Alison Bechdel’s memoir. When her father suddenly passed away, Alison reflected on her past, discovering her dark father and her family’s secrets that forever changed her.

Caption, caption, caption

Cris Villonco as Alison Bechdel Fun Home Manila

Cris Villonco as Alison Bechdel for Fun Home Manila
Photo c/o: Lea Salonga’s Instagram

After the show, a friend asked me, “did you cry?” I said no, because I’ve seen worse. While I don’t know anyone whose father took their life when things got unbearable, the things that Alison went through was nothing compared to what I’ve seen. I had a laugh with some of the things that she went through as a kid because it reminded me a lot of my cousin, but Alison’s childhood was still better compared to what a lot of people I know.

I remember when my Tita went to my cousin’s school (tagging us along) because she found out my cousin changed into her baggy clothes from the tighter shirt she asked her daughter to wear. When we reached my cousin’s school, we found her sitting beside her girlfriend. She was in 5th grade at the time.

Me and Evert

My cousin and me

I saw how her parents reprimanded her for wearing loose shirts and pants, or when she suddenly cut her hair, which made her “look like a boy.” I was also there when our relatives made fun of her because she’s a lesbian, saying awful things about her and her girlfriend’s sex life. I saw how, when she moved to another country for work, she’s changed entirely; voice got deeper and deeper, dresses entirely like a guy, and she even looked like one, too that the only thing missing is a penis. My relatives made fun of that, too. They joked maybe she already got one. But despite everyone’s taunts, she seemed happier; free. And even though I miss her a lot (I’m just a year older than her and we’re very close since we grew up together), I was glad that she made it out of this cruel country. I’m happy that while she can’t necessarily show the world her girlfriend (because of religious issues), she is happy now. But this isn’t about my cousin. This is about Alison Bechdel and her family’s story.

Days and Days and Days

Lea Salonga as Helen Bechdel and Katie Bradshaw as young Alison Bechdel, Fun Home Manila

Lea Salonga and Katie Bradshaw as Helen Bechdel and a young Alison Bechdel
Photo c/o: news.abs-cbn.com

To be honest, I didn’t feel any sympathy for Alison or her father. The one I realized I cared more when I walked out of the theater was her mother, Helen. No, it wasn’t because Lea Salonga played her, it was because I can feel like there’s something more to her story. Something more to tell. At first, when she ignored her daughter after Alison came out to them, I was a little angry at her. How can a mother do that to her own kid? She was supposed to be there for her even if she doesn’t agree with her daughter’s decision, but nope. She chose to stay silent and pretended that nothing happened. Until, of course, when Alison came home one day with Joan (her girlfriend) and Helen was forced to finally face the situation.

Helen’s revelation didn’t surprise me much, to be honest. If you have a gaydar, you can already smell from a mile what she was going to say. But what amazed and puzzled me about her is her willingness to stick with her husband so she could hold her family together, even though it’s already falling apart. I felt her struggles, and it always hurts my heart seeing a mother hurting like that.

Changing Her Major

Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante as Alison and Yanah Laurel as Joan Fun Home Musical Manila

Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante as medium Alison and Yanah Laurel as Joan for Fun Home (Manila)
Photo c/o: Lea Salonga’s Instagram

The woman who played the adult Alison, Cris Villonco, was good. She really did look like a lesbian. She stands like a lesbian, walks like a lesbian, talks like a lesbian. But the one that impressed me most is medium/college Alison. Not only does she have a really good voice, she’s also quite funny. It was fascinating seeing her confused and torn at the beginning, then all out in love with Joan in the end. One scene actually reminded me of an episode in The Real O’Neals, when Alison was standing in front of a room with a “gay union” sign at the door, and in comes this girl who would pull her out of the closet. But Joan. Well, I had to cringe a little about her because her speaking voice is just way to deep, it doesn’t sound… Normal. Why does a girl who plays a lesbian role has to have a deep voice? I also think that the two sort of lack rapport, but their voices sort of make up for it.

Edges of the World

Katie Bradshaw as young Alison Bechdel and Eric Kunze as Bruce Bechdel, Fun Home Manila

Katie Bradshaw as young Alison Bechdel with Eric Kunze as Bruce Bechdel
Photo c/o: news.abs-cbn.com

Here’s the thing: the reason why I couldn’t exactly sympathize with Bruce Bechdel is because I kind of find (what he did) selfish. Why? Because even when his wife found out about his secret, she stayed with him; didn’t leave him. What did he do? He bitched about how useless she was. Even when she can’t take it anymore, Helen stuck with her husband. Bruce, on the other hand, was too much of a coward to face his own demons that he just decided to stand in front of the truck because he couldn’t take it any longer. I know he must be feeling depressed, but he’s also the one who created his own hell. If there’s anyone he should be angry at it’s himself, not his wife.

Their House on Maple Avenue

Fun Home Manila set design

That being said, I think the youngsters stole the show a bit. I love those three kids. I sort of wonder why did Alison’s brother didn’t notice that she was a lesbian or where they even went when Alison left for college, but those kids are really good. I wish we got to see more of them though, especially the two boys.

As for the technical stuff, I really, REALLY love the set. Those chairs and the lamps. Gorgeous. Of course I couldn’t judge on the direction because I haven’t seen the original version, but Bobby Garcia never fails to impress me. I also have to hand it to the casting director because the way the actors talk doesn’t sound like “English Carabao” (unlike the last musical I watched, which I won’t name). The costume designer also deserves a nod, because of how they dressed all the Alison’s; the young Alison was dressed in red and blue stripes, college Alison was in blue with one red stripe in the middle, and the adult Alison wore plain blue. I haven’t exactly figured out what the colors mean, but I liked the symbolism. And finally, Eric Kunze and Lea Salonga. Oh, Lea. She just never fails to impress me. Okay, so I’m not a fan of her wig, but the voice and the acting, their voice and their acting… Wow. And Eric Kunze, when he stood in front of the truck, oh my, I had to look away. But the two of them together… Wow. I have to admit, it was a little hard to bear when they were arguing, but the two of them singing together, ah! It’s music to my ears.

Lea Salonga and Me

And of course, a selfie with THE LEA after the show

If you’re in Manila, I urge you to watch this amazing musical. It will run ’til November 27 so you still have time to buy your tickets and go see the musical. I think that this musical needs a focus group discussion after watching it, like you would during an experimental play, but just go see it and maybe discuss it with your friends and family later. You will learn a thing or two, I promise, not just of homosexual relationship, but heterosexual’s as well.

KTHXBYE.

Jhack

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