I’ll make another couple of points about smaller theatre productions: If the acoustics are well managed, and they are here, with every performer adroitly miked, words come through in a way that they often do not in larger houses with more reverberation and a boxier sound. I recall, for example, the trio of treble-voiced children—Small Alison and her brothers Christian (Reese Hewitt) and John (Christopher Patow)—singing their number “Come to the Fun Home” about coping with their squeamishness living in a mortuary. At the Ahmanson two years ago I could barely understand a word of it, but here, almost all of it came through loud and clear.
In an expansive house, especially in a big Broadway show on tour, casting tends to favor well-tempered, trained voices with broad commercial appeal. At Chance, the mature, middle-aged parents, the controlling Bruce and the long-suffering Helen Bechdel (Jennifer Richardson), are what I would call singing actors more than acting singers. Their showstopper numbers—“Days and Days” for Helen and “Edges of the World” for Bruce—are intense inner reflections on life failures that it turns out do not require the polished, soaring vocalism that Broadway demands. They can be equally effective on the small stage just a few feet away from you, with the audible scratch in the throat, the lyrics poignantly hovering between speech and song. Neither interpretation, big or small, is better or worse; they’re just different for distinct production styles.