BWW Reviews: Smashing FUNNY GIRL in Fullerton from 3D Theatricals
Funny Girl/book by Isobel Lennart; music by Jule Styne & lyrics by Bob Merrill/directed by Michael Matthews/3D Theatricals/through September 22 at Plummer Auditorium, Fullerton/September 27-29 at Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, Redondo Beach
In a rare revival, 3D Theatricals is now presenting the 60s' mega Broadway smash Funny Girl. What made Barbra Streisand a household name in 1964 is now in the capable hands of super talented Nicole Parker under the skilled and always reliable direction of Michael Matthews through September 22 in Fullerton and in Redondo Beach from September 27-29.
Tracing the early career rise of Fanny Brice at the turn of the 20th century, Funny Girl is a demanding show for its star. She must be a dynamic singer and actress, who also must show that distinctive flair for being, needless to say, consistently funny. Streisand certainly proved it. In fact, a couple of years ago, when the first Broadway revival ever was about to launch at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles, Lauren Ambrose was cast, but due to a lack of financial backing, the show collapsed before it began. Pity! Perhaps too many comparisons to Streisand made the backers wary of their investments, as there are those who feel that no one can top her dynamic vocal range and style. Well, Nicole Parker is living proof that a contemporary actress does indeed have the chops to play Fanny Brice. What a lovely treat this performance doles out from a gal that can really sing and who is unbelievably, seemingly spontaneously funny, in all aspects of the word. Two examples: at an audition with Florenz Ziegfeld, she leaves the stage awkwardly trying to walk and at the same time wear the headgear of one of the follies. You have to see it to believe it! Hilarious! And later in the lush seduction scene "You Are Woman", what she does for laughs with a circular pillow on the divan is a delicious piece of shtic that very few performers can get away with. You have to truly know what you're doing to carry it off properly; Miss Parker does, making her all the more akin to Miss Brice. Even Streisand did not possess these physically comedic charms. Parker's performance is glorious.
Supporting her as Nick Arnstein is Josh Adamson. Stunningly handsome, Adamson makes Arnstein a true lover, but a flawed one and not the bad guy so many make Arnstein out to be. Also in more than steady hands is the role of Fanny's mother, played by Jean Kauffman, a veteran triple threat actress who gives her all to the wise and loving Rosie Brice. Venny Carranza is delightful as Eddie Ryan, another triple threat performer with pizazz. Helen Geller steals her scenes as the meddling yet caring Mrs. Strakosh... and the rest of the ensemble, not to forget Gregory North, strong but tender as Ziegfeld, do some fine singing and step lively to choreographer Kami Seymour's uncomplicated but enjoyable steps. Gerald Sternbach as always makes a resoundingly splendid musical director.
I love Cheryl Sheldon's costumes, especially the lovely dresses for Parker and admire director Matthews for some innovative additions to the staging. Stephen Gifford is credited for designing the appropriately functional sets with an emphasis on the antiquated backstage theatrical dressing rooms and the real old and dingy yet homey neighborhood of Henry Street in the early 1900s.
This is a wonderfully honed re-envisioning of the theatrically splendid Bob Merrill/Jule Styne musical. Funny Girl may indeed live on without Streisand. Nicole Parker has coveted the role and makes it a very special star turn. Go, go, go to Fullerton if for no other reason than to watch her brilliantly adept comedy and to hear her sing "Don't Rain On My Parade", as well as the gorgeous ballads "Who Are You Now?" and "The Music That Makes Me Dance", left out of the 1968 film version of Funny Girl. 3D Theaticals has created another smashing production.