Musicals Thread (Family)

Welcome! The purpose of this thread is to talk about all things related to the wonderful world of musical theatre. Each week I will post a thread with a topic/question for everyone to respond to. This is also a great place to mention any new musicals you’ve discovered and/or general recommendations for other musical fans. Heard/seen any good shows lately? Have any theatre news to share? Tell us about it!

It’s Thanksgiving week in the US, and Christmas is just around the corner, so that means many of us will be spending time with family soon. Family has been on my mind a lot lately, and as I think about my own family issues I’ve found some comfort in the various family dynamics represented in musicals. So, this week I’d like to talk about musical families. What are some of your favorite musical families and/or musicals about family?

I actually had a difficult time deciding which musical to write about this week. There are two that stand out to me as being particularly compelling representations of families: Fun Home and Next to Normal. Over the last couple of months I’ve found a lot of solace in the latter’s overarching message that “something next to normal is okay” because I have, on more than one occasion, wished that my family was “normal” or at least less dramatic. But whenever I think about writing something to describe this musical I struggle, and so I’m going to leave it for another week and talk about Fun Home instead.

Fun Home is a musical that I think most of you are probably familiar with. If you haven’t listened to it or seen the show, then you might be familiar with Alison Bechdel’s comic book that inspired it. I discovered Bechdel’s incredible work a few years before the musical came out, and I absolutely loved it. So, when the musical debuted I was very hopeful that it would be good. And it was! I haven’t seen the show yet, but I would really like to see how it plays out on the stage. Much like Next to Normal (although not to the same extent), Fun Home addresses the desire to have that “perfect” family that only seems to exist on TV. This is perfectly represented in “Raincoat of Love”:

All of the songs, not just that one, evoke such a strong array of emotions, particularly those that tackle the relationship between Alison and her father. I have what I would describe as a non-existent relationship with my father for various reasons that aren’t worth getting into here, and I carry a lot of guilt and fear that one day I will wake up and regret leaving things as they are now. And so, it’s nice to have a song like “Telephone Wire” that so perfectly expresses those feelings. I’ve said this before, but one of the things I like about musicals is how we can connect to them on a personal level, and this is one of the best examples of that. It’s nice sometimes to let out your feelings and know that your experience isn’t that unheard of.

So, what about you? Are there any families in musicals that you like and/or relate to?