The new musical “Fun Home” is notable for several reasons. It’s the first musical adapted from a graphic memoir, it’s the first major musical that explores the life of a lesbian, and it has been nominated for nine Lucille Lortel Awards, seven Outer Critics Circle Awards, Eight Drama Desk Awards, was a finalist for last year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama and an astonishing 10 Tony Awards. Clearly, this is one musical with a lot of buzz behind it, due to the timely and sensitive subject matter, the brilliant direction and the work of it’s lead actress, Beth Malone.
Beth Malone is a relative newcomer to Broadway. She made her Broadway debut in 2006 with “Ring of Fire,” but she then worked off Broadway for several years before returning to originate the role of Alison in “Fun Home.” The show, which is based on the 2006 graphic memoir of the same name by Alison Bechdel, is about the relationship between a father and his daughter. It’s a coming of age story that traces the lead character, Alison, through several ages, from the age of eight to 43, with three different actresses taking on the various roles. Malone plays the adult Alison and the play’s narrator, and takes the audience through the journey of her self discovery, relationships with men, her coming out as a lesbian and her relationship with her father.
Malone’s performance in “Fun Home” has been receiving rave reviews, with critics praising everything from the impressive chemistry with her on-stage father to her own sparkling stage presence. Her astounding Tony-nominated performance is one that has been in development for many years, too. Malone was one of the original cast members for “Fun Home,” having been with the crew since the very beginning, when it was just a staged reading more than five years ago. Since then, Malone has clearly worked hard to develop the role of Alison, creating a sympathetic, believable character that takes the audience through an amazing journey.
“Fun Home” isn’t the only show for which Malone is notable. She recently appeared in the title role of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” which just received a brand new revival and world premiere at the Denver Center Theatre Company in late 2014. She’s also had her own one-woman cabaret show titled “Beth Malone; So Far” which talks about her life growing up in a small Colorado town and her journey into acting and adulthood. Her one-woman show has even toured from Colorado to New York.
While Malone may not have an extensive list of Broadway credits, she’s created a beautiful and lasting imprint on the Broadway scene. Steven Suskin of the New York Drama Critics Circle explained it well when he said her performance as Alison in “Fun Home” was “the glue that holds the show together.” And what a show it is. With so many shows based on films, jukebox musicals and other similar fare taking the bulk of the Broadway credit, it’s a refreshing change to have a show like “Fun Home” receive the accolades it deserves.
Malone is just one of the three women portraying the role of Alison, and all three have been nominated for Tony Awards this year. In fact, if both the Leading Actress and Supporting Actress awards go to actresses from “Fun Home,” this could be a year in which two actresses win Tony Awards for portraying the same character at different ages in the same show, something that has never happened before.
It’s always exciting to see a newcomer win a Tony Award, and Malone has proven that she’s very deserving of this impressive honor. Of course, Malone is up against some big names this year, including Kristin Chenoweth, Leanne Cope, Kelli O’Hara and the legendary Chita Rivera. It’s a difficult race to call, but Malone just may come out on top for this one. The Tony Awards will be presented live on CBS, Sunday June 7.
Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.