BWW REVIEW: Shoshana Bean Makes FUNNY GIRL Her Own at NSMT

BWW REVIEW: Shoshana Bean Makes FUNNY GIRL Her Own at NSMT

Music by Jule Styne; lyrics by Bob Merrill; book by Isobel Lennart from an original story by Miss Lennart; directed and choreographed by James Brennan; music direction, Mark Hartman; scenic design, Stephen Dobay; costumes provided by Maine State Music Theatre Costume Rentals; costume coordination and additional costume design, Mark Nagle; lighting design, Jack Mehler; sound design, Charles Coes; hair and wig design, Kurt Alger and Emilia Martin; production stage manager, Natalie A. Lynch

Cast:

Shoshana Bean, Fanny Brice; Bradley Dean, Nick Arnstein; Susan Cella, Mrs. Brice; Rick Faugno, Eddy Ryan; Brittney Morello, Emma; Sandy Rosenberg, Mrs. Strakosh; James Van Treuren, Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.; Richard Vida, Tom Keeney; Purdie Bauman, Mrs. Meeker; Ellen Peterson, Mrs. Mrs. O'Malley; Courtney Brady, Kimber Hampton, Brooke Lacy, Kathleen Lamagna, Keeney Girls; J.D. Law, Brandon Haagenson, Con O'Shea-Creal, Emily Jeanne Phillips, Robbie Smith, David Visini, Ensemble

Performances and Tickets:

Now through June 19, North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road, Beverly, Mass.; tickets range from $54-$79 and are available at the Box Office, online at www.nsmt.org or by calling 978-232-7200.

BWW REVIEW: Shoshana Bean Makes FUNNY GIRL Her Own at NSMTIt's a lot to ask of a leading lady to make audiences forget Barbra Streisand in the role that catapulted her to stardom. That's one of the reasons why FUNNY GIRL, the musical that forever linked Streisand to the title character Fanny Brice, has never been revived on Broadway.

Well, look no more, producers. If ever there was an actress who could fill Streisand's shoes and make FUNNY GIRL her own, it's the star who's currently electrifying audiences in the role at North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly: Shoshana Bean.

Bean (Idina Menzel's first replacement as Elphaba in WICKED on Broadway) is a 5'3" bundle of dynamite who has managed to combine the comic genius of Brice with a unique and powerful singing voice that re-interprets rather than imitates Streisand's signature stylings. Yes, the familiar belt is there on the classics "Don't Rain on My Parade" and "I'm the Greatest Star," but there's also a surprising gentleness to Bean's "People" and "The Music That Makes Me Dance." Her Brice is a sparkling blend of bravado and vulnerability, confident in her talent but deeply insecure about her looks. When the dashing Nick Arnstein (a charming, funny and ultimately broken Bradley Dean) professes his love for her, Bean practically melts from the shock.

BWW REVIEW: Shoshana Bean Makes FUNNY GIRL Her Own at NSMTSoon that love emboldens her - but also turns her immense gratitude into a suffocating loyalty that all but breaks Nick when his fortunes as a gambler and promoter run out. Her jubilant "Sadie, Sadie," married lady starts to question "Who Are You Now?" once there is nothing she seems to be able to do to win him back.

Director/choreographer James Brennan has surrounded Bean with exceptional talent, making every moment of the nearly three-hour long musical a joy. In addition to the charismatic Dean, FUNNY GIRL features the superb Rick Faugno as the lovelorn Eddie Ryan, the director and choreographer who rises with Brice from low-rent vaudeville at Keeney's Music Hall to the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway. The singing and dancing Faugno wears Ryan's love for Brice directly on his sleeve, yet she is the only one unable to see it.

BWW REVIEW: Shoshana Bean Makes FUNNY GIRL Her Own at NSMTDespite her international stardom, Brice's old Henry Street neighborhood is never far away, with her saloon keeper mother (Susan Cella) and her mother's three poker pals Mrs. Strakosh (Sandy Rosenberg), Mrs. Meeker (Purdie Bauman), and Mrs. O'Malley (Ellen Peterson) always ready to ante up their two cents. Cella in particular shines, at one point sharing an amiable specialty number with Faugno called "Who Taught Her Everything?" in which the two lament the thanks they don't seem to get from Fanny.

Doing double duty, Brennan has meshed his choreography beautifully with his direction, plumbing the depths of his characters with clever movement and adding personality through dance. Faugno and Bean are especially adept at physical interpretation, he more traditionally and she as a comedienne. With surprisingly original slapstick, Bean brings fresh delights to the elegant Follies bridal number "His Love Makes Me Beautiful" and the private dining room seduction song "You Are Woman, I Am Man." Every pratfall seems natural and spontaneous, enlivened by Bean's lovable, self-deprecating humor.

BWW REVIEW: Shoshana Bean Makes FUNNY GIRL Her Own at NSMTThe wonderful 14-piece orchestra under the direction of Mark Hartman is a novelty in these days of electronic synthesizers and pre-recorded music. Sets and lighting by Stephen Dobay and Jack Mehler ably transform the famous theater-in-the-round into Keeney's vaudeville house, Ziegfeld's theater, Mrs. Brice's Henry Street saloon, and Fanny and Nick's opulent Long Island mansion. Rental costumes are hit and miss, but the revealing gowns and massive headpieces for the Follies chorus girls don't skimp.

You only have till June 19 to catch Shoshanna Bean in FUNNY GIRL at NSMT. However, if Broadway producers are smart, they'll finally commit to that elusive revival and cast Bean in the lead. This kind of fit for a role doesn't come along often. It would be a shame not to bring this sensational performance and production to a wider audience.

PHOTOS BY PAUL LYDEN: Shoshana Bean as Fanny Brice; Shoshana Bean and Bradley Dean as Nick Arnstein; Rick Faugno as Eddie Ryan; Rick Faugno and Susan Cella as Mrs. Brice; Shoshana Bean

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