Review: FUNNY GIRL at Des Moines Performing Arts

Make sure you are one of the luckiest people in the world by seeing this production through March 17.

By: Mar. 15, 2024
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Review: FUNNY GIRL at Des Moines Performing Arts
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Hey Des Moines, here she is. A new production of "Funny Girl" opened on Tuesday evening. When you think of the show "Funny Girl," one of the first things you probably think of is the person you saw bringing Fannie Brice to life on stage.

For the show to work, you need someone who can deliver an iconic performance. That may be why it took nearly 60 years for the show to be revived on Broadway. Now, just short of 60 years, the revival's national tour is making a stop in Des Moines as part of the Willis Broadway Series. Judging from the audience response, there is a new iconic name that people will consider when thinking of "Funny Girl."

Going into the show, I watched the movie in 2022 when preparing for a trip to New York to see if it was a show I was interested in, so it wasn't a story I was familiar with. Honestly, I got to know the show's iconic songs through "Glee." So, in case you are like me, the story starts with Fanny Brice while she waits for her husband, Nick Arnstein, to show up for the opening night of her latest show. As she does this, she slowly starts reflecting on her life. We next see her as a teenager longing for the stage. Very quickly, she is fired from her first job, but she is determined to be on stage, and we soon see her make her stage debut and win over the audience. As the show continues, we see her rise on the stage, including becoming a performer in the Ziegfeld Follies. It is at the end of the show that we find out whether Arnstein shows up. To find out, you'll have to see the show.

Visually, this show was stunning to watch. The set by David Zinn gave this feeling of being in the theatre when the show took place with a proscenium of lights and multiple fabric-painted backdrops that flew in. I loved the impression of footlights on the floor, but I didn't notice them ever being lit during the show, which was the only disappointing part of the evening. The costumes designed by Susan Hilferty were gorgeous. That won't be a surprise if you've seen her work before. As with other shows, she creates the world these costumes come from. This can be seen in the different costumes she designed for the world of Keeney's and the Follies. The costumes of Keeny's have a vaudevillian feel, but when we get to the Ziegfeld Follies, the costumes are stunning.

One of the things that made the performance so enjoyable was the cast. The night I attended, we had four understudies who all did a fantastic job. Those understudies were Alex Hartman as Emma and Mrs. Nadler, Sean Thompson as Florenz Ziegfeld, Bryan Charles Moore as ensemble and Paul and Mr. Renaldi, and Zoey Lytle as ensemble and Vera.

The cast also features several stand-out performances throughout the night. The first comes from Izaiah Montaque Harries as Eddie Ryan. Not only does he have a great voice, but he does a tap number towards the beginning of the show that had the audience applauding multiple times. The evening also featured a fantastic performance from Grammy Award winner Melissa Manchester as Mrs. Brice and Stephen Mark Lukas as Nick Arnstein.

Heading out for intermission, there was a buzz in the theatre that I will never forget. What was that buzz about? It was about the phenomenal performance of Katerina McCrimmon as Fanny Brice. She has a smooth, classic sound to her voice as she sings each of the show-stopping numbers. While she played the humorous parts well, some of my favorite moments of hers were when she let us see Fanny as more than just a humorous character, and showed the heart she has. It is a performance that I will remember for years to come.

Those who get to see this production are truly some of the luckiest people in the world. We are also so lucky to have Des Moines Performing Arts continue to bring shows like this in the first year of their tours. Don't miss out on your chance to see this production before it leaves town on March 17. To find out more or to purchase tickets, visit


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