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BWW Reviews: There's No Raining on FUNNY GIRL's Parade at Dutch Apple

Jule Styne and Bob Merrill's FUNNY GIRL comes to mind for many people as one of the great Barbra Streisand movie musicals, but it's more than that. Isobel Lennart's book was adapted for the movie, but the play indeed came first, and Barbra Streisand got a Tony nomination for her portrayal of early comedian Fanny Brice, perhaps best known to later audiences for her Baby Snooks persona on television. Intriguingly, in 1964 it was on Broadway against a musical for which Streisand was also the film version star - HELLO DOLLY. Broadway and movie producer Ray Stark, Brice's son-in-law, was responsible for the somewhat biographical, and equally dissembling, story of his mother-in-law and her relationship with Julius "Nicky" Arnstein, professional gambler and con artist. (Outside of FUNNY GIRL, his claim to fame is having fixed the 1919 World Series with the Chicago White Sox and Shoeless Joe Jackson.) The story, as finally written, may be rather deliberately inaccurate... but it sure is fun.

It's on stage at Dutch Apple right now, where JP Meyer's pit orchestra sets the tempo with the overture, and this pit orchestra comes out smokin' from the starting gate. It carries into Fanny's introduction, because this Fanny, played by Anna Baker, has got it right. She's no would-be Streisand clone, as so many are, and her "I'm the Greatest Star" is entirely her own. But equally notable are her friend Eddie (Christopher Russell) and her mother (Kathi Osborne), particularly in their joint number, "Who Taught Her Everything?" in the first act. They're on spot vocally, and Eddie's as good a hoofer as you'd hope someone playing a choreographer should be. Kerry Lambert is back as choreographer for the show, and there's certainly nothing to be faulted with the choreography here; particularly, the dance arrangements for "Don't Rain On My Parade" at the end of both acts are delightful.

Nick Arnstein, the man you either love to hate or hate to love, is played by Galloway Stevens, and he's every bit the slick, polished transatlantic gambler you hope he'd be; although he's stronger as an actor, he's a thoroughly capable singer, and he's well able to convince the audience that indeed, he does love Fanny, but he and Fanny just may not be good for each other. Nick (much unlike the real Arnstein) is too proud to live off a woman's earnings, even though she's far richer than he because of her stage success, and Stevens shows it as the reason that their marriage flounders.

The musical itself is a bit of a period piece not only in setting - and John P. White's costumes, as always, are marvelous evocations of period - but in the attitude of the time when it was written; there are moments that now feel gratuitously sexist, but director Brian Enzman's worked at glossing over as much of that as possible. There's nothing, however, to be done with the plot line that Fanny's success emasculates Nick, but there are men for whom that's a problem even today, unfortunately. Nonetheless, between Enzman's direction and Lambert's choreography, the show's been kept bright, splashy, and fast-paced, with a definite nod to the 1960's when it was originally produced.

The usual numbers that the score's fans can break into without provocation are there, "Don't Rain On My Parade" and "People" the most notable of them, but there's also a simultaneously hysterical and scorching "You are Woman, I am Man" and, naturally, "I'm the Greatest Star".

Dale Given does a nice turn as Florenz Zigfeld, and Lisa Coday as Mrs. Strakosh, the friend of Fanny's mother who's certain she's responsible for fixing Fanny and Nick up in the first place.

This is one of those productions that is a sure-fire audience pleaser - it's a bright, colorful, tuneful parade of song, dance, and romance with lavish sets and costumes. Even at its end, Baker's Fanny Brice pulls together enough sunny optimism about her future to warm a full theatre.

It's a musical that feels surprisingly like Spring, just right for April. It's rightfully one of the classic Sixties musicals, and if you don't know the show and the music, there's no excuse not to learn them from this production.

At Dutch Apple through May 2. Don't let anything rain on your parade over to the show. For tickets and information visit www.dutchapple.com, or call 717-898-1900.



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From This Author Marakay Rogers