Monday, July 27, 2015

Last Week in Shows

I spent last week in New York City primarily for RWA, but I confess I carved out a little time to see some shows. I saw both "Hamilton" and "Fun Home".  Interestingly a few people were more curious about the "Fun Home" choice, possibly because all the "Hamilton" news has everyone saying wonderful things about it, and the "Fun Home" stuff is a little less fervent.  The two shows actually have more in common than you might think.  I mean sure, one is about a founding father who worked his way up from nothing, and one is about a cartoonist reflecting on her life growing up with her father who was secretly gay and who commit suicide shortly after she revealed she was gay, but in the end the two had some very common themes.  Both of them looked at expectations and desires and the choice to be open about them, versus keeping them inside. Both of them had love songs.  Okay, "Hamilton" had the edge with a peppy little you'll miss me when I'm gone song sung by the King of England. But "Fun Home" had the hilarious pretend commercial the three kids put together for the family funeral home (aka fun home).
Both were amazing, both had wonderful casts.  (I had done less pre-research on "Fun Home" so had totally missed that Judy Kuhn was in there.  What?) "Fun Home" worked wonderfully in the theatre in the round setting, and they did a great job aiming the action at all sides so that you didn't feel left out. (This is, I know, a basic function of directing theatre in the round, but it was very well done.) It was an intimate theatre, and I was on the side near the orchestra, so got a special warning that I would not be able to leave without crossing the stage so I should, well, not leave.  Having Alison there watching much of the action ended up being a really interesting device especially her comments and even outright embarrassment at watching her early encounters with her girlfriend Joan.
"Hamilton" was is a large, multi-tiered theatre and it was packed to the brim. The set design was bare looking. (I'm sure it's the kind of set that people describe as spare and the set designers nod through gritted teeth at all the stuff they've packed in there.) I haven't read the source book, so it's hard to tell how much of the use of Burr as the foil for Hamilton, the focus on Hamilton's wife and sister-in-law came from the book, versus a choice for the show, but, even putting to the side the color-blind casting, this story about a founding father managed to also look at women, mention slavery more than once, and look at the intersection of passion and politics without failing to let these characters be flawed.
I already have the "Fun Home" cast album, I cannot wait for the "Hamilton" one because I'm sure both will reveal even more on repeated listen.