Tag: Danni Smith

Review: Fun Home (Victory Gardens Theater)

Stella Rose Hoyt stars as Small Alison Bechdel in Fun Home, Victory Gardens Theater            
        

Fun Home
 
By Lisa Kron (book & lyrics)
   and Jeanine Tesori (music)
VG Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Nov 19  |  tix: $15-$75  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets
     


    
  

Intimate, ferocious ‘Home’ is as joyous as it is heart-wrenching

  

Rob Lindley (Bruce Bechdel) and Stella Rose Hoyt (Small Alison) star in Fun Home

    
Victory Gardens Theater presents
    
Fun Home

Review by Catey Sullivan

Toward the end of Fun Home, there’s a song called “Edges of the World.” It’s delivered by Bruce, a closeted man in his mid-50s. It’s a harrowing description of his life-long inability to embrace and celebrate his true self. Using his house as a metaphor, Bruce describes himself in terms of physical corruption and devastation. He’s “cracking, “shoddy,” “twisting” and finally, “falling into nothing.” It’s a devastating song of terror and rage at the realization you’ve wasted your life. It is also, in Rob Lindley’s virtuosic delivery, a song that will haunt you for weeks. Perhaps longer.

Hannah Starr stars as Medium Alison in Fun Home, Victory Gardens TheaterBased on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel of the same name, Fun Home is centered on Bruce’s daughter, Alison. The autobiographical musical follows Alison from her days as a precocious pre-teen who loves drawing and loathes wearing dresses to a thoughtful, confident out-and-proud lesbian artist. But while Fun Home is ostensibly Alison’s story, it’s her father Bruce that shines through with the most ferocious intensity in Victory Gardens’ superb production.

Director Gary Griffin’s ensemble will break your heart with their ability to embody the characters in Bechdel’s story, but it is Lindley who delivers the final anvil blow that will shatter it to smithereens. In the 269-seat Victory Gardens, Fun Home has an intimacy it lacked when the national tour played the 2,253-seat Oriental Theatre last November. This is especially evident in the musical numbers, which often feel like they’re coming at you with the immediacy of your own immediate family.

If the above makes it sound like Fun Home will leave you popping Zoloft like Skittles, rest assured that the production is as triumphant as it is dark. Adapted by Lisa Kron (book) and Jeanine Tesori (music and lyrics), Fun Home is also consistently hilarious. The life and times of Alison and her family are hysterical, starting with the commercial that Small Alison (Sage Elliott Harper and Stella Rose Hoyt, alternating) and her brothers (Leo Gonzalez and Preetish Chakraborty) create for the family funeral (or “fun”) home. The ad has the aesthetic of a Partridge Family number, with shades of the Brady Bunch, Johnny Bravo era. It involves puppets and casket-choreography and is all kinds of brilliant.

  Stella Rose Hoyt stars as Small Alison Bechdel in Fun Home, Victory Gardens Theater Joe Lino (Roy) and Rob Lindley (Bruce Bechdel) star in Fun Home, Victory GardensStella Rose Hoyt, Leo Gonzalez and Preetish Chakraborty star in Fun Home, Victory Gardens Theater

Alison’s travails as she matures into college-aged Medium Alison (Hannah Starr) and (adult) Alison (Danni Smith) are a pitch-perfect blend of humor and sorrow, always edged by a knife-blade of bittersweet sharpness. In Medium Alison’s post-coital “Changing My Major to Joan,” Starr embodies a glorious merger of vulnerability and overwhelming, unadulterated joy. It’s the feeling of falling in love for the first time, compressed into a single three-minute song. Starr is fearless, sending the joy to the rafters. She also captures the pride and dignity that comes with love – no small feat for a scene that has her wearing nothing but underpants, tube socks and a stomach-skimming T-shirt.

Small Alison gets her big moment in “Ring of Keys,” a number that turns a banal household item into an epiphany. The song is intentionally halting, as Small Alison chokes up trying to figure out how to articulate her feelings. Pulling off those precisely positioned tiny rests without sounding rehearsed is exceedingly difficult, but Harper simply nails it. Every meticulously inserted rest sounds utterly spontaneous.

Hannah Starr, Danielle Davis and Danni Smith star in Fun Home, Victory Gardens TheaterRob Lindley and McKinley Carter star as Bruce and Helen Bechdel in Fun Home, Victory Gardens

As grown-up Alison, Smith holds the show together, narrating flashbacks with the poignant hindsight that colors memory. Working at her drawing table. Alison struggles to put words and illustrations to her memories, flooded by a conflicting sea of emotions. From the gleam of an antique silver pitcher that her father bought at a barn sale, the family’s story spins out and fills in. There’s deception and denial alongside love; shards of anger spiking the sweetest memories.

In the language of pop psychology, the Bechdels are a “dysfunctional family.” In Fun Home, the more important classification is at the core: First and foremost, they are a family. Smith’s portrayal doesn’t play down the brutal tragedy that you can feel approaching like a freight train. But in her narration, you can see that family tragedies don’t necessarily define families. Among survivors, death yields healing, renaissance and even art.

Under music director Doug Peck, the Fun Home score is imbued with all the colors and emotion in the spectrum. Peck is to music as Griffin is to dialogue – which is to say, both get to the heart of the matter and make it gleam.

  
Rating: ★★★★
  

Fun Home continues through November 12 November 19th at VG Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map), with performances Tuesdays-Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays 3pm & 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $15-$75, and are available by phone (773-871-3000) or online through PrintTixUSA.com (check for availability of half-price tickets). More info at VictoryGardens.org(Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission)

McKinley Carter, Preetish Chakraborty, Stella Rose Hoyt, Leo Gonzalez and Rob Lindley star in Fun Home

Photos by Liz Lauren


  

artists

cast

McKinley Carter (Helen Bechdel), Preetish Chakraborty (John Bechdel), Danielle Davis (Joan), Leo Gonzalez (Christian Bechdel), Sage Elliott Harper (Small Alison), Stella Rose Hoyt (Small Alison), Rob Lindley (Bruce Bechdel), Joe Lino (Roy, Mark, Pete, Bobby Jeremy), Danni Smith (Alison), Hannah Starr (Medium Alison).

orchestra

Doug Peck (music director), Charlotte Rivard-Hoster (conductor, keyboard), Corson Barnard (asst. music director), Lewis Rawlinson (cello), Brent Roman (percussion), Mike Matlock (flute, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor sax), Justin LaForte (guitar), Ethen Deppe (electronic music designer)

behind the scenes

Gary Griffin (director) Doug Peck (music director), Yu Shibagaki (scenic design), Melissa Ng (costume design), Paul Whitaker (lighting design), Ray Nardelli (sound design), Mealah Heidenreich, Alec Long (co-properties design), Jessica Forella (stage manager), Erica Daniels (managing director), Chay Yew (artistic director), Aaron Shapiro (production manager), Jessica Forella (production stage manager), Merle Reskin (production sponsor), Liz Lauren (photos)

Danni Smith stars as Alison Bechdel in Fun Home, Victory Gardens TheaterHannah Starr stars as Medium Alison in Fun Home, Victory Gardens Theater Stella Rose Hoyt stars as Small Alison Bechdel in Fun Home, Victory Gardens Theater

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October 24, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Bridges of Madison County (Marriott Theatre)

Kathty Voytko and Nathaniel Stampley star as Francesca and Robert in Bridges of Madison County            
         

The Bridges of Madison County

By Jason Robert Brown (music & lyrics)
   and Marsha Norman (book)
Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire, IL (map)
thru Aug 13  |  tix: $50-$60  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets    
     

July 5, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Mamma Mia! (Paramount Theatre)

Amy Montgomery as Donna in Mamma Mia, Paramount Theatre Aurora           
   

Mamma Mia!

By Catherine Johnson (book)
   Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus (score)
at Paramount Theatre, Aurora (map)
thru Oct 30  |  tix: $44-$59  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

September 14, 2016 | 1 Comment More

Review: The Wild Party (Bailiwick Chicago)

Danni Smith and Matthew Keffer star in Bailiwick Chicago's "The Wild Party," directed and choreographed by Brenda Didier. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)        
      
The Wild Party

By Michael John LaChuisa (music, lyrics, book)
   and George C. Wolfe (book)
Directed and Choreographed by Brenda Didier  
at VG Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Nov 1  |  tickets: $40   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
                   Read review
     

October 20, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Review: Passion (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre)

Dani Smith stars as Fosca in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "Passion" by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, directed by Fred Anzevino. (photo credit: Adam Venness)        
      
Passion

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim 
Book by James Lapine 
Directed by Fred Anzevino
at No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood (map)
thru April 27  |  tickets: $34-$39   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
                   Read review
     

March 29, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Review: See What I Wanna See (Bailiwick Chicago, Garage Rep 2013)

Danni Smith (front) and Peter Oyloe (back) in Bailiwick Chicago’s "See What I Wanna See" with words and music by Michael John LaChiusa, directed by Lili-Anne Brown and music direction by James Morehead, presented as part of Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s Garage Rep 2013. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)        
      
See What I Wanna See

Words and Music by Michael John LaChiusa
Directed by Lili-Anne Brown  
Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted (map)
thru April 21  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

March 8, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Over My Dead Body (Waltzing Mechanics)

Bryan Campbell (Bob Sell) stars in Waltzing Mechanics' "Over My Dead Body", directed by Thomas Murray.       
      
Over My Dead Body  

Adapted from interviews by Waltzing Mechanics  
Directed by Thomas Murray 
at Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Jan 6  |  tickets: $20-$25   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

December 13, 2012 | 1 Comment More

Review: Scarrie (Hell in a Handbag Productions)

Alex Grelle (Carrie) and AJ Wright (Tommy) posing pretty for Hell in a Handbag Productions' "SCARRIE" by David Cerda, directed by Cheryl Snodgrass. (photo credit: Rick Aguilar)        
       
SCARRIE: The Musical 

Written by David Cerda 
Directed by Cheryl Snodgrass 
at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark (map)
thru Nov 10  |  tickets: $22   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
           Read entire review
     

October 11, 2012 | 0 Comments More