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San Diego Rep Opens New Season With Tony Award-Winning Musical 'Fun Home'

From left: Actresses Amanda Naughton, Taylor Coleman, Claire Adams, who play "Alison" in the San Diego Rep's production of "Fun Home," in an undated photo.
Daren Scott
From left: Actresses Amanda Naughton, Taylor Coleman, Claire Adams, who play "Alison" in the San Diego Rep's production of "Fun Home," in an undated photo.
San Diego Rep Opens New Season With Tony Award-Winning Musical 'Fun Home'
San Diego Rep Opens New Season With Tony Award Winning Musical 'Fun Home' GUESTS: Amanda Naughton, San Diego actress Sam Woodhouse, artistic director, San Diego Repertory Theatre

I'm Allison St. John. And for Maureen Cavanagh It's one of the most celebrated recent musicals winning five Tony Awards when it was on Broadway. Now it's coming to San Diego to open the San Diego rep's forty third season fun home is a moving story of a girl discovering her own sexual identity and uncovering the truth about her mercurial and unpredictable father. It's a coming of age story based on the original novel by Alison Bechdel who won the MacArthur Genius Award after it came out. Joining us are Sam Woodhouse the artistic director of the Center rep and director of the Rep's production of fun home. Thank you for having me. And Amanda Naughton who is the San Diego actress who is playing Allison lead. Thank you. So Sam I want to start with you. Why choose this play fun home to kick off the reps season. Absolutely unique. New American musical very contemporary very now very much about what's happening in America now. The story of a daughter and her father really others are strange and unusual unique relationship. But it's interesting the more specific it is the more universal the story becomes. So I think this is important because kind of the crux of it is the whole idea of her discovering her father's sexual identity. Absolutely LGBT identities and sort of hidden identities. But talk to us a bit about how this could appeal to just anybody who has a family really. Well just think of it. What do you really know about your parents. I mean how much you know about their lives. What do you know about your father. Really all the truth about your father your mother and what the mystery that mysteries if you will that live with your family units. I think we all have one or some version of this that just happens to be heightened and specific and unique. The title fun home. Talk to us about that. The Bechtol Funeral Home. BRUCE BECHTOL and his family live in this small town. He's an English teacher in the high school in order to get along. Step aside job. He runs the funeral home. That's an unexpected kind of home. So Amanda I understand that when you first saw the performance in Broadway you were immediately attracted to it. Why. I had seen the Tony award presentation on television and the song Ring of Keys. That was what they presented on the Tonys head had drawn me in. So immediately I was in San Diego when I watched the television broadcast. But shortly after that I went to New York and I had it in my mind I said I have to go see that play and see what it's about. It did draw me in I think what Sam has said is it is universal it the emotion and the family story the father daughter dynamic the father daughter story in terms of coming of age and then looking back. At your parents with different eyes affected me deeply. We see Allison in various stages of her life. We see her as a child. We see her in her college years and then we see her in her present day looking back on those formative years. They resonated with me so particularly the college years. The finding yourself. The awkwardness the Going Home again after having been away from home and reintroducing yourself to your family in some respects finding are you changed. Are your parents changed. Who did the changing and the growing hair or have you both done it. You know I recognized myself in that and as a musical I mean some people still see musicals as being kind of light entertainment. But this is a pretty intense musical isn't it. And let's just hear one of the songs to get a sense of the music of this. Here's Amanda rehearsing the song maps. On. Our house. You live your life in. And just listening to that with eyes close. Yes. As the director you know how did you how do you see the music really adding to the drama. It's hypnotic. It's magical. It seduces you. It sort of crawls gently into the back of your mind and stays there through the whole piece. There is a great deal of melody in counterpoint. There are reed instruments and wind instruments and string instruments so there's a there's a gorgeous as I said delicate almost classical called to the music and yet it's very contemporary and you can't separate the story from that lyric from the text from the music. It is all of one piece. That's the reason I think it won Best Original Score the Tony award because of the sort of extraordinarily delicate and subtle nature and complexity of this music and the relationships the family relationships which we can all relate to. Amanda you understudied for our son and her mother I understand and in previous productions How did that help you understand their relationship. It helped me enormously. I did. I understudied the roles of Alison and Helen her mother Helen Bechtol on the national tour. So in learning and developing and rehearsing those two roles I learned so much how Allison can inform Helen and Helen can inform Alison especially now that I'm playing Alice and 100 percent. I feel so fortunate that I have a little bit more of a facet of knowing and having climbed inside Helen's mind and tried to figure out what her position was in the family what her position was what her point of view was. Is it important for you to be playing it here in your hometown San Diego. That cannot be overstated. Yes it is very important for me replayed. Thirty two cities I believe we did not play San Diego. It was my not so secret dream that I would be able to return from the tour and play the role in San Diego. And thanks to Sam M.F. I my dreams coming true. So yes. Yeah I will say that listening to the audience's response to the piece is fascinating because you can hear people depending upon the age of the listener because it's told from the point of view. In some cases from a 10 year old a 19 year old or a 40 year old that depending upon the audience whenever you hear is you hear sort of a Hoz of recognition from various points based on the age and experience of the audience member. And given that one of the Allisons is college age if college students hear this they have a strong response to what it's like to be a freshman at 19 and suddenly discovered that you're a lesbian which is what happens. So it sounds like fun home has something for everybody really and it's running through the end of the month at the Rep. Just before we go Sam tell us a bit about some of the other performances that we can expect this season. You know there's there's one way to look at our season is that four out of the six plays are written by women and that's a rare percentage in the Americans Peter and this is probably the most awarded and pedigree season that we've ever done in terms of the multiple Tony Award winners. So it's a very high pedigree season with a very strong female voices. Well thank you both so much for coming in. Sam Woodhouse who is the artistic director at the San Diego rep. Thanks and thank you. And Amanda Norton who is acting lead in from home. Thank you.

One of the most celebrated musicals in recent Broadway history is making its San Diego debut.

A production of the Tony Award-winning musical "Fun Home" is opening the San Diego Repertory Theatre's 43rd season.

"Fun Home" is about family life, love, memory and a father-daughter relationship. It tells the coming out story of lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel and her quest to understand her gay father, who for most of his life hid his own sexuality. The musical, by playwright Lisa Kron and composer Jeanine Tesori, is based on Bechdel's graphic memoir of the same name.


The San Diego Rep's production of "Fun Home" runs September 6-30 at the Lyceum Theatre in downtown San Diego.

Amanda Naughton, who plays "Alison" and understudied that role on the national tour and the Rep's artistic director Sam Woodhouse, discuss the production Monday on Midday Edition.