Ring of Keys

I actually read Fun Home several weeks ago, while working on UMW’s production of Noises Off. During one act, I needed to be seated behind a giant stair unit, and I wasn’t able to move until the act ended. So, for roughly 45 minutes, I had time to read. I chose to bring Fun Home with me, since it was one of the smaller books we were assigned to read, at least in size.

Before actually reading the book, the only thing I knew about it was that it was a true story about a lesbian and her gay father. I also knew it had been adapted into a Tony-winning Broadway show just last year. I only knew one song from the show. This was the song:


I want to spend this reflection talking about this performance, because it is a breathtaking. I pulled out my copy of Fun Home, and compared the two. The musical nailed the moment, even getting down what Alison is wearing when she sees delivery woman. Sydney Lucas’s voice and face captures the joy Alison writes about.

At first, when I heard the song, I thought it was maybe a sexual awakening. Then, after rewatching the video several times and then reading the original material, I understood that it was about kinship rather than physical attraction.

I think it was a powerful decision not to show the “bulldyke” Alison sees in the luncheonette. Instead of having an actress portray her, we depend entirely on the narration, the song, and the actors on stage to understand what we aren’t privy to seeing. But I think this was the stronger choice. We don’t actually need a person to understand that a butch woman has entered the scene. We get that from the performances of everyone on stage.

In the book, we don’t hear what Alison thinks about the delivery woman, at least not in detail. But in the musical, through the song “Ring of Keys” we get to hear exactly what she feels. It’s warm and swelling and full of joy. Small Alison doesn’t feel alone anymore, which Lucas portrays beautifully through her face and voice.

In short, I adore this song, and think we should try and watch parts of the musical in class.