From Graphic Novel to Broadway, "Fun Home" Raises the Stakes

• by Jay Croft

Graphic novels have been turned into movies and TV shows, so why not a Broadway musical?

"Fun Home," based on the best-selling book by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, won the Tony Award this year for Best Musical. Reviewers called it innovative and said it breathes new life into the Great White Way, which loves to polish off old favorites like "The King and I" more than push new form and content.

I read the graphic novel a few years ago and loved it. Bechdel was already famous for the "Dykes to Watch Out For" strip. But the prize-winning memoir took her to another level.

The book and play are about growing up gay – and about her closeted gay father, who killed himself shortly after Bechdel came out in college.

One more grim component: The title is short for Funeral Home, which was the Bechdel family business.

Not exactly "Cats," right?

Or "Watchmen" or "The Walking Dead," either.

But even with the book's strong lead-in, the show still surpassed all my expectations. It's sad, yes, but also funny and joyful, a life-affirming tearjerker. The music is beautiful, the cast sublime.

"Fun Home" isn't just about a lesbian cartoonist and her sad dad. "A Chorus Line" wasn't just about dancers.

At its heart is the essence of storytelling, whether in movies or plays or graphic novels.

How do we make sense of the chaos of life?

See the show next time you're in New York.

But read the graphic novel today.

Jay Croft is an Atlanta writer who has read a few comic books in his day. He blogs at