Tolstoy wrote "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." And in some cases, their own way makes for a good story. "Fun Home," opening Friday at Bakersfield Community Theatre, is the autobiographical tale of a graphic artist coming to grips with her own sexuality and understanding her unconventional upbringing in a funeral home.
Based on the 2006 autobiographical graphic novel of the same name, "Home" is the story of graphic artist Alison Bechdel. It is told in three stages of her life, with three actresses sharing the role: Kaya Leyendecker as the child, Nancee Steiger as the college-age Alison and Marti Hoyt as the adult.
This is the first local production of the Tony-winning Broadway musical. Director Bethany Lahammer said she was excited to bring it to the BCT stage.
"I am honored to be trusted with the story," she wrote in an email. "The cast has stellar talent — truly every person brings richness and strong voices and solid acting skills. It will leave you glad to see a well-done production."
Although Alison is at the heart of "Home," the story is deeply rooted in her relationship with her father, Bruce (played by Michael Crider), who is a closeted homosexual. She reflects on her own journey coming out as a lesbian while looking back at her father, whose cruising led to many issues for their family.
Lahammer said the show's message is what interested her in directing it.
"It's an important story to anyone struggling to own who they are, and anyone who has had to make sense of their upbringing — which is all of us," Lahammer said. "Even with great families, we all take a minute as adults to look at the ways our family has shaped us."
She added, "I’m always drawn to things that are true, and how universally music and theatre can inspire us to connect with ourselves and each other."
Along with the drama, there are plenty of laughs in "Home," Lahammer said.
"The scenes around Alison’s first love in college are laugh out loud funny; Nancee Steiger plays the awkwardness of that so very well."
She also enjoys the number "Come to the Fun Home" in which the three Bechdel children, including brothers Christian (Maelyn Hoyt) and John (Cash Jones-Webb) introduce the audience to the family business of running a funeral home "complete with smelling salts and a casket."
Along with an enjoyable theater-going experience, Lahammer would also like audiences to make sure they're in touch with their truest self.
"I hope it inspires them to look at the circle they live their life inside and be sure it’s wide enough for all of who they are."