BWW Reviews: Village's FUNNY GIRL Brings the Sweet and Funny Plus the Power
OK let me start off by saying, Babs she ain't and thank God for that. OK, now before you all form the lynch mob, I love Babs. But if anyone is going to even attempt to put on "Funny Girl" the worst thing they could do it try to pass off an imitation of an icon. And Sarah Rose Davis in Village's current production manages to pull off carrying the show with aplomb while still putting her own stamp on the role.
She tells the tale of the early life, career and loves of Fanny Brice, a young, relatively plain Jewish girl with dreams of stardom. And has her star rises so does her relationship with the dashing and sophisticated Nick Arnstein (Logan Benedict). But even though her career may be on a smooth path her relationship with Nick is anything but, with his constant searching for the next big thing and money woes. And it's all wrapped up in this classic from Jule Styne, Bob Merrill and Isobel Lenhart with show stoppers like "People" and "Don't Rain on My Parade".
Director Steve Tomkins and Choreographer Kristin Holland have captured the perfect style and tone for this World War I era tuner, which certainly keeps the fun of the piece alive. And a mammoth moving set from Bill Forrester and gorgeous costumes from Karen Ann Ledger only compliments that tone, not to mention the kick ass orchestra led by Tim Symons and Bruce Monroe.
But in a show like this it's the cast that carries the heavy load especially Davis as the titular "Funny Girl" and funny she is. She takes on the timing of Brice like a pro and has an equally powerful and crystal clear voice to back it all up. Her growth in the piece is astounding which beautifully leads up to the 11 o'clock "The Music That Makes Me Dance" in which Davis bares her soul and shows off every inch of vulnerability of the character. If I had one complaint it would be a minor one as I wanted a little more insistence and urgency in her initial "Don't Rain on My Parade" but a lot of that I felt had to do with the staging of it as more of a "park and bark" and less of an effort to get away. But as I said, a minor qualm in and otherwise superb performance.
The rest of the cast serves well as the planets orbiting Davis' sun and also serve the show's style well. Especially John David Scott as Fanny's buddy Eddie Ryan who is not only a world class hoofer and singer but fit perfectly in that 1910s style. Bobbie Kotula turns in her usual brilliance as Fanny's Mother complete with oodles of comedy and a voice that seems to come from the ghost of Ethel Merman. Benedict certainly has the look and the pipes to pull of the role of the uber-handsome Nick but at times I wanted a little more commitment to the role especially early on. He does manage to open up more in Act Two and his chemistry with Davis does as well but it took awhile to get there. And kudos upon kudos to the sublime ensemble of singers and dancers who flesh out this wonderful production and kept all our toes a tappin'.
Village has taken this iconic and seldom attempted classic and served it up with all the class and fun it deserves. I can't say I was completely blown away by every moment of it but I can say it's a truly entertaining and solid production, which is why I give it a solid YAY with my three letter rating system. For a show that we rarely get to see live, you could do a lot worse than to catch this one.
"Funny Girl" from Village Theatre performs at their Issaquah location through July 6th and then moves to their Everett location running July 11th through August 3rd. For tickets or information contact the Village box office in Issaquah at 425-295-2202 or in Everett at 425-257-8600 or visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.