Broadway’s “Fun Home” comes to Orlando’s Dr. Phillips Center for some healing

By : Nicole Dudenhoefer
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The musical Fun Home has touched the lives of many as an honest, emotional representation of sexual identity issues through nearly 600 shows on its Broadway stage, but the cast of the production is bringing an extra special version of the show to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts stage to touch a community that is in great need of healing and hope.

Fun Home is a Tony-Award-winning musical based on the autobiographical graphic novel of the same title by Alison Bechdel. The story centers on Alison, a lesbian cartoonist, who is writing a graphic memoir about her life, as she tries to make sense of and connect with her father’s life, homosexuality and suicide. Even the show’s title touches on the dark aspects of Alison’s childhood, as her father was the town’s mortician, and she was raised in a funeral home that was referred to as the “Fun Home.”

When the Fun Home actors and production team members learned about what took place at Pulse during the early hours of June 12 they, like the Orlando community and the rest of the world, were heartbroken and devastated.

“We feel like we were making progress (for the LGBT community) with Fun Home and we were making the world a small light and then this horrible, evil, violent act takes us out at the knees,” says Beth Malone, the Tony Award nominee who plays Alison.

As the cast came together to perform that evening, everyone developed a desire to do something more, causing Michael Cerveris, the Tony Award winning actor who plays Bruce, Alison’s father, to reach out to the Dr. Phillips Center to organize a benefit for the Pulse victims.

The event will be held on at 7 p.m. on July 24 in the Walt Disney Theater of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.  The production will take place as a concert reading instead of a traditional, full production as seen on Broadway, with half of the net proceeds raised from the benefit will be directly distributed to the victims and their families. The other half will go to Equality Florida to support their work to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The mission of the arts center was always for people to come together and experience something – each other, the performance, everything. The company of Fun Home are being so generous in donating their time, on their day off, to give this to Orlando and benefit Equality Florida. It’s an extraordinary gesture,” Kathy Ramsberger, president and CEO of the Dr. Phillips Center, says.

The Dr. Phillips Center will host another Pulse benefit, From Broadway with Love: A Benefit Concert for Orlando on June 25, featuring many members of Broadway and Orlando theater communities. However, this separate performance of Fun Home has a deliberate purpose in reaching the Orlando LGBT community. “There’s a huge need for this kind of message to be resonating outward from somewhere because there is an endless supply of misunderstanding and hatred, in the least sort of abuse it’s just tolerance,” says Malone.

Being the first mainstream musical about a young lesbian, the show provides a great service to the LGBT community by spotlighting lesbians in the large media. Making this production accessible to the Orlando community strengthens the story’s ability to spread hope and light as well. “It’s about homophobia and it’s about hatred and it’s about love and acceptance and healing through compassion that is the whole take-away of Fun Home,” says Malone. “We hear these stories and we sign autographs every single night. We hear these stories from kids, these young kids thanking us for existing.”

The pressure to perform such a real and raw story not only comes from knowing the story’s impact on audience members, but also the original creator. Malone says that the real Alison Bechdel is very much an enormous part of the Fun Home community, as she has become friends with her as Bechdel came to see the show.

“The reality would hit you that ‘Oh my God, all this preparation I’ve done with creating a character, but really she’s just a real flesh and blood human being,” says Malone. “It really lends itself to naturalism and honesty and no bullshit, it really allows you to take out all the ‘actory’ stuff that you were thinking to be a good idea. All that stuff goes away because all the heavy lifting was done with just the material and the truth of what she was saying. That’s all you have to do is kind of get out of the way of the piece itself. It’s really quite a beautiful piece of theater.”

Aside from Malone and Cerveris, the production will include the other seven current Fun Home Broadway members, including four-time Tony Award nominee Judy Kuhn, 2015 Tony Award nominee Emily Skeggs, Gabriella Pizzolo, Roberta Colindrez, Cole Grey, Zell Steele Morrow, and Joel Perez, along with the show’s Tony Award-winning creators Lisa Kron (Book & Lyrics), Jeanine Tesori (Music) and Sam Gold (Director).

Tickets start at $30.00. To purchase tickets visit DrPhillipsCenter.org or call 844-513-2014.

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