When she saw the musical “Fun Home” on Broadway back in 2015, Penobscot Theatre Company production manager Tricia Hobbs was blown away. She was moved by the music, the storytelling and, most of all, the message at the heart of the show, based on Alison Bechdel’s critically acclaimed 2006 graphic memoir of the same name, which won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Musical.
“It’s a message of representation and inclusivity, and it’s about complicated families and relationships,” said Hobbs, who last fall directed “Wait Until Dark” at PTC. “It’s about important things that everybody struggles with, and that’s something that every sort of audience needs to see. Not just big city audiences.”
“Fun Home,” directed by Hobbs, opens this week at the Bangor Opera House, the first time the show has ever been produced in Maine. Its story, about a woman trying to unlock the mysteries of her memories, her family and of her own sexuality, presents the character of Alison in three parts: at age 10, at age 18 and in her mid-40s.
Playing “Small Alison” at age 10 is Evelyn LaCroix, a Skowhegan native making her Penobscot Theatre mainstage debut. Playing adult Alison is Susannah MacLeod, a Colorado-based actress also making her PTC debut. She previously performed the role of adult Alison at the Miner’s Alley Playhouse in the Denver area.
Playing “Middle Alison” is 18-year-old Lana Sabbagh, a Brewer High School senior who has been seen in several other PTC productions, including “It’s a Wonderful Life” in 2015 and “Annie” in 2012, when she played the title character.
All three actresses have spent the past month studying each other. Though they are at three different stages in life, they must convincingly portray the same person — a task accomplished as much through the words and music performed as stage as it is through the physicality of the three actresses.
“We’ve spent a lot of time together, learning how we all move and how we look at things and where we put our hands,” Sabbagh said. “The characterization is in the script, but the physicality is all our own. We just watch each other and how we move, so we can kind of become the same person. Putting your hands in your pockets in the same way is a really small thing, but it makes a big difference.”
Playing Alison’s parents, Bruce and Helen, are local stalwart Dominick Varney and New York-based actress Megan Marod, while locals Cameron Wright, Cuddy Steadman and Luka Bogolyubov round out the cast. David Madore, a Hampden native and New York resident, makes his PTC debut as music director.
Sabbagh has grown up with Penobscot Theatre — she’s been involved with PTC’s Dramatic Academy since age 9 and has come to think of the Bangor Opera House as a second home. Though she heads off to Dartmouth College this fall (to study pre-medicine, not theater), the lessons she’s learned from the stage are things she says she will keep with her all her life.
“I think theater teaches you to be comfortable around all sorts of people and teaches you how to share things and be emotionally intimate with people,” Sabbagh said. “I think that’s something I’ll always carry with me.”
As part of its programming around “Fun Home,” the theater will host pre-show talks about the show’s major themes, set for one hour before showtime at PTC’s Dramatic Academy space at 51 Main St. in Bangor. The theater is also donating tickets to the show to LGBTQ organizations statewide.
“Fun Home” will be performed Wednesdays through Sundays, April 25-May 12, at the Bangor Opera House. For more information, visit penobscottheatre.org.