“Fun Home,” the Tony Award-winning family tragicomic musical, opened to a sold-out audience at Renegade Theater on Friday night, offering songs and moments that touch your heart and stick in your head.
Crafted from Alison Bechdel’s celebrated graphic novel — conveniently on sale in the lobby — the central conceit is having three Alisons, all wearing red sneakers, but existing at different points in time.
We worry for Small Alison (Reagan Kern), care for Medium Alison (Laney Goei), and feel for the adult Alison (Amelia Barr), trying to come to terms with the great cosmic joke of her life.
When she came out as a lesbian in college, she learned her father, Bruce (Zachary Stofer), was gay.
Then four months later, he killed himself.
From her drawing table vantage point, Barr’s Alison comments on past action and provide captions for future artwork.
Director Peter Froehlingsdorf (“Eastland”) has a passion for musicals that emotionally hit home hard with an audience and ensures it by casting excellent singers as his principals.
Adding emotional resonance to the songs are the cello, violin and reeds in Paul Christenson’s seven-piece band.
“Fun Home” takes its title from the fact that the Bechdel house was a fun(eral) home. In the first show-stopping number, “Come to the Fun Home,” Small Alison and brothers Christian (nerdy Greyson Holste) and John (cutey Jacob Waechter) make up a crazy commercial for the place.
Equally insane is “Raincoat of Love,” with Marney Crandall’s “Partridge Family,” TV-special-inspired choreography, led by Patrick Timmons, who plays the various young men crossing Bruce’s path.
Goei’s Medium Alison hides beneath oversized shirts, avoids eye contact, and uses her shy smile as a shield. Goei’s way of talking is endlessly endearing, and her exuberant “Changing My Major” after meeting kindred spirit Joan (Anna Matthes) also stops the show.
Kern’s sweet voice makes Small Alison charming. Then on “Ring of Keys,” her eyes glisten as she gives voice to her awakening feelings, and there is this moment where she reaches for the mature singing voice that awaits her around the corner.
If you do not already have a tissue in your hand at that point, you are going to need one — especially when “Fun Home” ends with a quartet of songs that put characters and audience through the emotional wringer.
As mother Helen, Christina Stroup-Manchester’s devastating “Days and Days,” about the wreck of her life to her daughter, has a final line that cuts to the quick.
When her father asks the adult Alison to go for a ride, Barr channels Medium Alison. “Telephone Wire” is her desperate attempt to find answers in her final conversation with her father.
Stofer’s final song, “Edges of the World,” goes beyond the graphic novel to try and give tangible meaning to Bruce’s death.
The show ends as it should: all three Alisons together singing “Flying Away,” propelling “Fun Home” to its heartfelt benediction.
The curtain call found the three actresses in tears and in a group hug.
Tissues. You are going to need tissues.
Lawrance Bernabo is a theater and arts reviewer for the News Tribune.
If you go
What: "Fun Home,” music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by Lisa Korn
Where: Teatro Zuccone, 222 E. Superior St.
When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9-10, 16-17, and 22-24, 2 p.m. Sundays, Aug 11 & 18