Blog Post #20 Fun Home, from Graphic Novel to Musical

The adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home in a Broadway Musical honored the source material and expressed in song the possible emotions of each family member, including Alison’s father and the author herself at the many different stages of her life. The best kind of adaptation of any work as it transitions from it’s initial medium into another is one that acknowledges that not every detail can make the journey but enough familiar pieces should be found.

In that regard, the transition was pretty much seem less, with an added curious twist that the musical acts as Bechdel’s expression of interpreting her memories in her childhood to early college years as she makes the graphic novel. Besides being an analysis of her possible father’s personality as she tries to come to terms with his suicide as she contemplates how they were both gay, the musical also expresses her awakening as she embraces the reality that she’s a lesbian. In that regard the song sung after having sex with Joan “Changing My Major” was one of the more uplifting and significant songs in the musical because despite everything else that follows this moment became one of the most positive moments in the author’s life. The other moment, matching comedic bliss in earlier parts to the greater tragedy that motivated this graphic novel is the fact that Alison and her father never fully talked about their shared connection about being gay. The musical expressed this by having the present Alison in the car seat with her father instead of her college-age self because this is the moment where he goes back to the most and wishes she could have the talk they never got, since that was the last night they met face to face. Near the end,  a way of interpreting the final lines of song and dialogue in the play reflects the same idea as the graphic novel, that ultimately Alison comes to terms with everything in her past, including her father’s own sexuality and death, so that she can both remember and honor him by fully embracing the life of a gay woman in a way that her father never got to realize as a gay man.

Fans of the graphic novel will enjoy the musical but ultimately the story is well expressed of a woman coming to terms with her past in a way that reflects how everyone must remember their family in one form or another, as comic or song, in order to move towards their future.

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2 thoughts on “Blog Post #20 Fun Home, from Graphic Novel to Musical

  1. You have good points here, including the need for “enough familiar pieces” from a work to be present in an adaptation, and your wrap-up thought about “move toward the future.” Among my reactions to the musical, the number of familiar pieces felt just right, and I can imagine that anyone in the audience who had not read the graphic novel would still notice those features – for example, the ways in which Alison tried so hard to connect with her father. Regarding moving forward to the future, both the graphic novel and the musical did that – with just enough possibilities noted to keep readers/audiences engaged (readers literally know there is more to come because of the pages left in the book they hold, and audiences are constantly reminded of the future because the ‘oldest Alison’ on stage appears again and again, no matter what part of Alison’s family is being depicted).

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