Funny Girl Review – The Life and Times of Fanny Brice

Katerina McCrimmon and Stephen Mark Lukas in FUNNY GIRL - Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade
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First produced on Broadway in 1964 starring Barbra Streisand, FUNNY GIRL is a semi-biographical story based on the life and career of Ziegfeld Follies super star Fanny Brice. The Broadway musical was originally produced by Brice’s son-in-law Ray Stark, husband of her only child Frances. The 1964 production received eight Tony nominations, but it was not until the 2016 revival that the show won its first Tony for Best Musical Revival. The earlier musical production was based on a book by Isobel Lennart from her original story; more recently, the book was revised by Harvey Fierstein.

Cast of FUNNY GIRL – Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

With music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Bob Merrill, FUNNY GIRL has stood the test of time, paving the way for multiple national and international adaptations and revivals. Songs like “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade” remain cherished by generations of theater-goers. In 1968, a film starring Barbara Streisand and Omar Sharif was the top grossing picture of the year and earned a Golden Globe and Oscar for Streisand. In 2024, the Ahmanson Theatre presented FUNNY GIRL. Now FUNNY GIRL, starring the dazzling newcomer, Katerina McCrimmon, is moving to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Orange County.

Izaiah Montaque Harris – Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

The time is 1924, and the place is backstage at the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City, along with compelling recollections from Fanny Brice’s life over the years. Fanny (Katerina McCrimmon) has big Broadway dreams, considering that she isn’t a knock-out with long chorine legs and a pouty mouth. But – with a mother like Mama Brice (Melissa Manchester) and a best friend like tap dancer Eddie Ryan (Izaiah Montaque Harris) – can she possibly fail? Her persistence pays off as she finds her niche in the Broadway scene as a comedienne par excellence. On top of that, from the moment she meets entrepreneur and gambler Nick Arnstein (Stephen Mark Lukas), the direction of her private life is also sealed. This is a match made in heaven – or is it?

Katerina McCrimmon – Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Director Michael Mayer does an excellent job of encouraging his cast to become real people with real aspirations – rather than musical theater paper dolls. McCrimmon nails her portrayal of Brice as an enthusiastic, focused woman who probably became obsessed with everything which she treasured in her life. Her mother manages to be the perfect Jewish mother who cautions Fanny about reality but also gets and stays behind all her daughter’s decisions. Lukas conveys the frustrations of a man who remains in his wife’s shadow but longs to spread his wings and gain the respect he craves. Lovelorn Harris epitomizes the puppy-dog admiration which he feels but knows will never be reciprocated. In other words, FUNNY GIRL rises above its roots as a popular musical and succeeds in conveying the drama inherent in the tale.

Stephen Mark Lukas and FUNNY GIRL company – Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

At the same time, McCrimmon’s voice shines; and she received an enthusiastic audience reception during each of her numbers. In a word, she brought the house down. Cast members could also sing – and most were pretty good dancers too. The musical chops of all were evident. David Zinn’s scenic design was suitably flamboyant, and Susan Hilferty’s costumes were sparkly and often simply stunning in keeping with the Ziegfeld zeitgeist. Kevin Adam’s lighting and Brian Ronan’s and Cody Spencer’s sound were up to the task of presenting a “big” musical from the ‘60s. And let’s not forget the live orchestra under the supervision of Michael Rafter, choreography by Ellenore Scott, and tap choreography by Ayodele Casel. All in all, FUNNY GIRL is a must-see for all theater lovers. You won’t be disappointed.

Melissa Manchester and Izaiah Montaque Harris – Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

FUNNY GIRL runs through June 9, 2024, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. The Segerstrom Center for the Arts is located at 800 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Tickets start at $39. For information and reservations, call 714-556-2787 or go online.


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