Review: 'Fun Home' National Tour(Cleveland, OH)

C. Austin Hill

  • Ohio Columnist

On October 9, I had the opportunity to see the first national tour of Fun Home in the tour’s first stop in Cleveland, Ohio. In full disclosure, I hadn’t planned on writing a review of this production for OnStage, as I attended as a private audience member as opposed to a critic invited by the theatre or production.  That said, my experience of this remarkable show was such that I think it bears public discussion. 

Being already familiar with Fun Home in its original graphic novel form, and having heard the Broadway cast recording a number of times, I knew that this was a show that I wanted to share with my family.  I took my 12 and 21-year-old sons, my 15-year-old daughter, and my wife to the Connor Palace Theatre in Cleveland.  This was our first visit to Playhouse Square, having just moved to nearby Youngstown (about an hour away from Cleveland) in June.  The Connor Palace, a former Vaudeville hall-turned-movie palace is beautiful and well-equipped, though it’s worth saying that the leg room in the balcony left something to be desired (isn’t this often the case?).

From the moment we entered the house, it was clear that this was no ordinary Broadway musical. There was no show curtain, just a sparse set under warming lights. The band was on stage, at the back, allowing the apron to extend into the first row—a nice choice for this intimate production.  And, of course, the big question was how well the intimacy of the material would translate from the small Circle in the Square to the monstrous road house.  The answer, I’m delighted to report, is extremely well.

From the moment of Small Alison’s (beautifully rendered by Alessandra Baldaccino, fresh from the Broadway production) entrance, the 2,700-person sell out (impressive for an early Sunday evening performance) audience was entranced.  Kate Shindle (Alison), Robert Petkoff (Bruce), Susan Moniz (Helen), and the rest of the cast was tremendous, breathing life and freshness into Alison Bechdel’s characters.  The real standout, however, was Abby Corrigan in the role of Medium Alison—Bechdel’s college-aged version of herself.  Corrigan, a recent high school graduate, delivered a tour-du-force performance, navigating the sensitivity, vulnerability, and comedy of her character with undeniable humanity and grace.  Her voice was incredibly polished and lovely, and her performance complex and nuanced.  My family and I found her very moving and talked about her performance extensively on our way home.

The restaging of the play, taking it from an arena stage to a proscenium, was well conceived and executed by the production’s Tony Award-winning director Sam Gold.  While I was worried that the adult Alison might get lost or be rendered stationary with the placement of her work table, Gold opted to put her station of wheels, easily maneuvered by Shindle throughout the production—and he managed to make the movement natural, motivated, and appropriate, ensuring that it never felt like a device.  Near the middle of the production, a section of the story takes place in New York City and other areas, and was rendered with the use of a white (or light gray) brick wall with two doors.  My family and I agreed that this visual choice was not as strong as the flexible and open primary setting of the play, making it difficult to ascertain where we were in time and place—was, for example, the café in which the song “Ring of Keys” takes place supposed to be in New York City? I hadn’t thought so, but taking place in front of this wall, it appeared that it might be.  A minor complaint, though, as the use of the wall allowed for the creation of a literal rendition of the interior of the Bechdel’s home on Maple Avenue in western Pennsylvania, a visual reveal so stunning that it garnered gasps from many in the audience—myself included.

If there was one other complaint from this production, it’s that there were some sound problems.  There were times when it was difficult to hear individual voices and lyrics during group numbers, and there were times when the band was slightly too loud in comparison to the voices.  I don’t know whether the blame lies on the Connor Palace’s equipment or on the production’s equipment, and I suspect that these problems will be addressed quickly as the tour continues.

A non-linear story is challenging for some, but Jeanine Tesori (music) and Lisa Kron (book and lyrics) managed to guide their audience through the ploy-lines with great dexterity.  My 12-year-old had no problem whatsoever following the story at any point.  Instead, he—and the rest of my family—found the musical incredibly moving.  My 15-year-old daughter and I spent over half of the evening clinging to each other, alternating between weeping and laughing—who can ask for more than that?  I highly recommend this production to any and all readers.  

Photo: Kate Shindle, Abby Corrigan and Alessandra Baldacchino in Fun Home (Joan Marcus)

Here is a link to details on future tour stops:,652.  

Review: "Once" National Tour

Lisa Bailey

It’s been a week since I saw the National Tour of Once. The reason it took me this long to sit down and write my review is because how do I put into words all of the emotions this musical made me feel? I figure I might as well give it a shot and hopefully do it justice! To begin, Stuart Ward (Guy) and Dani de Waal (Girl) are electric. I think I could listen to Ward sing “Leave” all the time and still feel like it was the first time I heard the song. I knew from that moment the show had me hooked and it was going to be an incredible ride. 

Once is based on a 2006 movie of the same name with a typical story – guy meets girl and fall in love. However, both are broken with their own personal baggage and the timing isn’t right for them. With their shared interest in music they both find strength to fix their personal lives even at the expense of their feelings for each other. 

Once Facebook Page

Once Facebook Page

I can’t forget to mention how great the ensemble is. The talent in this cast is just phenomenal. There are 13 actors in the cast with no orchestra. The actors play the music onstage and the choreography with the instruments is fantastic. Once has a very minimal set – an Irish pub (where you can go onstage before the show begins to get a drink!) and the cast does a nice job in transitioning the scenes into whatever they may be (bankers office, bedroom, etc.). 

A very intimate, simple musical which was probably the quietest show I’ve ever been to. Even in my seats way back in the theatre, I could feel the love and pain between Guy and Girl and was sobbing my way out of the theatre. Thanks to this wonderful cast for making their way to Toledo, OH. I had been waiting a long time to see this production and I was not disappointed at all.

To find out more about this wonderful show and to see where it’s heading next, check out their website:

Review ~ "Beauty & the Beast" National Tour

Lisa Bailey / OnStage Critic Playing Belle in Beauty and the Beast has always been a dream of mine. She’s a smart woman who doesn’t back down and she does it all with such grace. I remember going to see the movie when I was a youngster and have been in love with it ever since. I never saw the musical on Broadway but did see the national tour about 10 years ago. When it was announced that the national tour was making its way to Toledo this year, I knew I had to check it out again.

The musical follows the same premise as the Disney movie. A young prince is turned into a beast because he shows no love in his heart. If he cannot love someone and receive their love in return by the time the last petal on a rose falls, he will remain the beast forever. Belle is a young woman living a small town who dreams of adventure. She ends up as a prisoner in the Beast’s castle and the story goes on from there

I had such high hopes for this production because I do love it so. However, I was disappointed and that started from the beginning when the old beggar woman turns into the enchantress. She looked like one of those inflatable flailing tube men. The sets were pretty lackluster – mainly the library scene where it was just a small backdrop with painted books. The battle scene was nonexistent but that’s because it’s a small cast and there weren’t enough cast members to portray both the townspeople and the castle objects. Some songs were cut but I wasn’t concerned about that. It wasn’t any of the songs from the movie so I don’t think the average Joe would notice the cuts. I didn’t want to nitpick at things because this is one of my favorite musicals but I definitely saw where they cut some corners.

I was impressed with the cast. Jillian Butterfield (Belle) lead the cast with grace, passion and a lovely voice. Patrick Pevehouse (Lumiere) had great comedic timing and led the show stopper “Be Our Guest” with great flair. Cameron Bond (Gaston) was my favorite actor. His arrogance was perfect and had great chemistry with Jake Bridges (Lefou). Ryan Everett Wood (Beast) had great vocals for the Beast’s solo, “If I Can’t Love Her”. My one issue with his portrayal as Beast was that he was too goofy. I didn’t like his transition throughout the show.

Overall, did I like this production? I’d lean more towards yes with that slight disappointment. The talent was there and the story is still one of my favorites. I just have to remind myself that it was scaled down. Would I recommend this show? Yes, because it’s still a great story full of great music. The cast does a wonderful job with what they are given. What more can you ask for? I’m just being picky because I’ve seen the musical before and know how great it can be.

Check out for tour dates and try the grey stuff, it’s delicious!