BWW Interview: FUNNY GIRL Gabi Epstein
Toronto, you are in for a treat. And you have the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company to thank for it. Featuring the standards "Don't Rain on my Parade" and "People", the iconic musical FUNNY GIRL will be brought to life in all its original glory, this coming Monday night September 30th in what will be its first ever professional production in this city.
25 of this country's top Musical Theatre actor-singers will grace the stage of the George Weston Recital Hall at the Toronto Centre for the Arts - unquestionably one of the city's finest concert halls - backed by a full 24-piece Orchestra featuring this city's finest musicians. And Toronto's own Gabi Epstein stars as Fanny Brice in the role that catapulted a young actress and singer named Barbara Streisand to super-stardom nearly a half-century ago.
If you think this amount of talent sounds too good to be true, you'd be almost right. Unfortunately, this luxury of riches can only be savoured for 'One Night Only'. HGJTC Artistic Director Avery Saltzman is directing FUNNY GIRL in a one-off Concert Production as a fundraiser to kick off its new season. To buy tickets, call Ticketmaster at 1-855-985-2787 or visit www.hgjewishtheatre.com today.
I spoke with Saltzman and Epstein by email recently to find out more about this exciting event, and why Torontonians shouldn't miss it.
BWW - Avery and Gabi - thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedules to join me today! For those readers who are still in the dark, tell us what FUNNY GIRL is all about.
GE - It is a wonderful show-business story about a girl trying to find her place in a community that resists her, and uses her own gumption to make herself known -- and finds love in the process. As in many stories, nothing is as shiny and perfect as it seems, and the "tragic clown" element shows its ugly face. I think the most beautiful part of this show is that (pun aside) it is about "People"-- plain and simple. Of course there is Jewish content, but it's more cultural as opposed to religious. Good stories always use something specific to be able to reveal their most truthful tellings and in this case it happens to be the Jewish element. I think it makes people relate to the story even more because of how specific it is. It was like when I saw "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". It was so specific you could have inserted any ethnicity into the title and it would be just as funny and just as true.
BWW - But why can we only see FUNNY GIRL for one night only, next Monday night?
AS - The HGJTC wanted to find a way to have this show as part of our season but it proved impossible because of the size. Attempting to scale it down and truncating the lush orchestrations just wouldn't do the show justice. In this day and age, it's very difficult for a Not-For-Profit theatre company to do a large show like FUNNY GIRL, but producing it 'In Concert' with a full orchestra has proved doable. I hope it will be a successful fundraiser for us!
GE - But because it is 'one night only', you get to see some of Canada's top talent all in one cast. So many brilliant people have committed their time to this one brilliant night, and I am floored at the amount of talent and experience in the room. Come for the full 24-piece orchestra (most musicals in the city do not have an orchestra of this size) and come to witness a truly unique experience -- to see a show that hardly ever gets done in a very classy way. It will be in "concert style" so there will only be music stands and microphones set up for us downstage. But this script/score is good enough that it doesn't need anything else. It's going to be a pretty special night.
AS - We have such an amazing cast who are making this show soar!
BWW - When I think of FUNNY GIRL, I think of Barbara Streisand. This show demands that its leading lady be a stunning comedienne, a fabulous singer, and a skilled dramatic actor. Back in 1964, this difficult role to cast was offered to Mary Martin, Anne Bancroft, Eydie Gormé, and even Carol Burnett before given to the then-unknown Barbara Streisand. Avery, you've had a 30+ year career in show business, talk to me about why Streisand's FUNNY GIRL performance was so revered.