Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Funny Girl, Funny Lady, Barbra Streisand... it's all Fanny Brice to Josephine Sanges.

By: May. 07, 2022
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Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

There are basically two types of clubs in New York where one can find cabaret shows. There are the big, slick, glossy clubs like 54 Below, Birdland, and Joe's Pub where often can be found movie stars and Tony winners playing their club acts between gigs involving their main hustle on Broadway and in front of the movie camera. Then there are the little rooms like Don't Tell Mama, The Laurie Beechman, and Pangea, where the working men, women, and gender non-conforming artists can be found doing cabaret for the love of the art, during their off-time from their day and survival jobs. From time to time there is some crossover between the two clubs but most of the time the movie stars appear in the big rooms and the working folks stick to the small rooms, and it's a system that seems to be working for everyone.

Josephine Sanges is one of the working people.

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre An award-winning cabaret performer, Josephine Sanges creates bonafide cabaret shows designed to play the intimate, artistic, bohemian cabaret rooms that land somewhere between the basement and the back of the establishment. She is an artist, she is an actress, she is a chanteuse. And last night, at The Laurie Beechman Theatre, Josephine Sanges debuted her new show THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE and, when I go into one of these small cabaret rooms of New York City, this is the kind of show I want to see. It is the kind of show I look for. And Josephine Sanges has delivered that kind of show, and then some.

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre It is a sad fact of life but, were it not for the movie Funny Girl, the world at large would not remember Fanny Brice. When the Broadway play made Barbra Streisand a star, Fanny Brice's legend was sealed, for all time. As long as there are people who love great movies and people who love Barbra Streisand, there will be people who know who Fanny Brice is. That's something. But (and this is a big but) the world still doesn't know who Fanny Brice was. A YouTube search can turn up some clips of both the audio and video nature that people can enjoy and that actresses playing Funny Girl in stock can use as research, but there is actually precious little out there to help keep the memory of the real Fanny Brice alive for the general public - but that can be said about many great talents of the past. Fortunately, there are actors and writers everywhere, each of whom has a fascination with some historical show business figure that they wish to present to the world. That's how the legends of Mae West and John Barrymore were made into the plays Dirty Blonde and Barrymore. Pam Gems, alone, gave the world Piaf and Marlene. And any number of cabaret performers have created shows honoring artists like Cole Porter (Michael Griffiths), Peggy Lee (Cady Huffman), and even Fanny Brice (Kimberly Faye Greenberg).

Well, Fanny Brice - the one from Funny Girl, the one from Funny Lady, and the one from the Lower East Side - are all alive and well and lighting up the Laurie Beechman Theatre, thanks to Josephine Sanges.

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre The Funny Girl In Me charts for the audience a relationship that started when Josephine Sanges was asked to audition for the play Funny Girl, which she had never heard of (sacrilege!), and out of her casting in that play came a lifelong kinship with the famous Vaudevillian that informs her tribute show. Now, here's the thing about tribute shows: they can be tricky territory that falls into a variety of formats. Some are history lessons during which a performer recites a laundry list of Wikipedia facts interspersed with songs from off the radio, and who doesn't love when class is in session? Others are plays in which a performer is dressed in costume, as the historical figure whose story they are portraying, acting in a contrived situation in which the character has nobody onstage with whom to talk, and that can sometimes lean into the precious. Still other presentations are occasions when an actor with absolutely no connection to the artist has decided it is time for them to take on that artist's canon of work in passionless, personality-free shows that fall flat for an audience wondering why the artist chose to do this particular show.

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre None of that here. What Ms. Sanges and her crackerjack team (brilliant John M. Cook as Musical Director and Rock of Gibraltar Jeff Harnar in the Director's Chair) have created is a non-linear script that jumps back and forth from Josephine herself to Fania Borach to Fanny Brice to Baby Snooks to Funny Lady, using tales from Sanges' experiences in life and in Funny Girl, interesting trivia from Brice's history, and Josephine's own feelings about what Fanny did with her life and how her fortitude and tenacity has informed Josephine's. In fact, of all of the women presented up on the stage, the one who has the least to do with the story is the most famous of them all: Ms. Streisand.

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre Mr. Cook and Ms. Sanges have made the whip-smart decision to veer Josephine's vocals as far away from Barbra Streisand as possible. It isn't a choice that glares out at the audience as a desperate attempt to not be Barbra: it is a decision that elevates the level of storytelling to a place that belongs only to Josephine Sanges. Possessing of one of the purest, prettiest voices anybody could be lucky enough to hear, Ms. Sanges is singing the songs from Funny Girl Broadway, Funny Girl Hollywood, and Funny Lady by singing the notes that were written on the page. It is impossible to sing "I'm the Greatest Star" or "People" and not want to sing them the way Barbra Streisand recorded them for the movie: her vocal embellishments are iconic and they are perfect. But they are hers, they're not Josephine's. By choosing to sing the notes that Jule Styne (et al) wrote, Josephine Sanges has given herself interpretive permission, and the songs belong, solely, to her, and each and every performance is beautiful of tone and visceral of emotion. They are gorgeous, authentic examples of musical storytelling. Only the song "My Man" retains a smidgen of Streisand's influence, which is a right and true tribute to the lady who has been carrying the Fanny Brice legend to the public all these years. Thanks to John Cook's impeccable arrangements, Josephine Sanges has achieved the impossible: she has put "How Lucky Can You Get?" into a club act and emerged triumphant.

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre In the opinion of this writer, the song from Funny Lady that was a radio chart-topper for Barbra Streisand is a danger for anybody wishing to sing it in their show. As presented in the film Funny Lady, it is too dependent upon the context in which it is presented to be effective outside of that context. Misters Kander and Ebb crafted a musical monologue so intricate and so iconic that people don't, quite, know what to do with it other than sing it the way that Barbra Streisand sang it, and when people try, they usually come up standing in a shame radius. Nope. Not here. John Cook has worked with Sanges and Harnar to create a treatment for the song that includes two other tunes and that tells Josephine's story - and anytime a cabaret show tells the story of the artist on the stage, it is a win. This is a win. But, then, this entire show is a win, from start to finish.

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre Easily one of the most engaging performers working today, Ms. Sanges is especially adept when it comes to the presentation of Fanny Brice's Yiddisha comedy songs. This is the area of THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME that is so important because, without that original Fanny Brice history and aesthetic, there would be no Funny Girl or Funny Lady. Those comedy numbers are what, first, brought Brice to the public, and the Baby Snooks character is what, later, brought her National fame. Josephine Sanges is channeling those comedy performances vocally and facially in a way people aren't always apt to see, and, with those performances, she is actually doing more to bring Brice back to life than the play Funny Girl, itself. There are no real representations of this side of Brice - at least not in the movies (not having seen the current Broadway revival of the play, I cannot comment) - but watching Sanges re-create these numbers is enough to send one gleefully down a YouTube watch-hole in an attempt to learn more about Brice and her artistry than ever before, which would be an honor to Josephine's efforts in this show, one of the best, most seamlessly crafted and executed tribute shows this writer has ever seen.

I have been known to wax praise-full over shows that I have enjoyed, but with The Funny Girl In Me: Josephine Sanges Sings Fanny Brice, there is no other way to put it: the show will require an extension, and every seat should be filled at every performance. Sanges, Harnar, and Cook have created something here that is worth catching.

People who see The Funny Girl In Me aren't the luckiest people in the world, they are the smartest.

THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre again on May 18th at 7 pm. Information and reservations HERE.

Josephine Sanges has a website HERE.

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre Review: Triumphant THE FUNNY GIRL IN ME: JOSEPHINE SANGES SINGS FANNY BRICE Debuts at The Laurie Beechman Theatre Photos by Stephen Mosher



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