Aspen cheers on Beth Malone as ‘Fun Home’ wins Best Musical Tony
Beth Malone’s family, friends and former castmates filled the Wheeler Opera House on Sunday night as the Aspen theater community cheered one of its own during a broadcast of the Tony Awards.
Malone, a part-time Snowmass Villager and veteran of the Crystal Palace and Theatre Aspen productions, was nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for “Fun Home.” The acclaimed production won Best Musical and a total of five awards, though Malone was beat out by Kelli O’Hara (“The King and I”) in her category.
As Malone’s name was read among the nominees and her face filled the big screen at the Wheeler, she mouthed “Hi, mom and dad” with a smile and a wave. Her mom and dad, Peggy and Bill, were among the enthusiastic local crowd. Her brother, Brian, also came to town from Castle Rock to support his sister.
“It’s been a long, 20-year journey, but a fabulous one,” he said of his sister’s path as a performer from Castle Rock to Broadway.
Malone, who began her acting career in the barn at the Country Dinner Playhouse in Englewood and then ski-bummed in Aspen while performing at the Crystal Palace in her 20s, has made history with her role as Alison in “Fun Home.” The musical is based on a graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel about growing up gay with a father in the closet. Malone plays Alison as an adult, looking back on her childhood and her father’s suicide. It’s the first time a lesbian lead character has been featured on Broadway.
Brian Malone underscored the significance of Malone’s role and the gay coming-of-age story in “Fun Home” for civil rights.
“The award is insignificant, but Beth’s portrayal and this recognition is a step forward for all of humanity,” Brian Malone said.
Michael Cerveris, who won a Best Actor Tony for playing Alison’s father, struck a similar note in his acceptance speech, linking the themes of “Fun Home” to the fight for same-sex marriage and expressing hope that the Supreme Court will grant gays the right to marry in a case pending before it.
“Fun Home” also broke new ground Sunday with its win for Best Original Score for Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron – the first time an all-female writing team has won a Tony Award for a composition.
Malone was featured in the Tony Awards show during a performance of the song “Ring of Keys,” narrating from her drawing table as a younger version of Alison sang. She joined the cast of “Fun Home” on stage as it took home the biggest award of the night at the ceremony’s conclusion.
Early on in the evening, Brian Malone videoed the local crowd, yelling “Howdy, Beth, from Aspen, Colorado!” in unison, and text messaged it to his sister in her seat at Radio City Music Hall.
The crowd at the Wheeler, where Malone staged her one-woman show, “Beth Malone: So Far” in 2011, included representatives from every corner of local theater — Aspen Community Theatre, which hosted the party; along with Theatre Aspen, where Malone performed most recently in 2013 as Fantine in “Les Miserables”; Hudson Reed Ensemble; Theatre Masters; and Thunder River Theatre. Crystal Palace founder Mead Metcalf and several former Crystal Palace players represented the iconic dinner theater where Malone first performed locally.
While Sunday’s celebration was for Malone’s big night, the local Tony Awards viewing party also may become an annual affair.
“Obviously, we’re here for one particularly wonderful person, but we might try and do this as a continuing tradition,” said Aspen Community Theatre board member Pat Holloran.
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