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BWW Review: FUNNY GIRL is a Terrific First for BOMBSHELL THEATRE CO.

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New Milwaukee-area theater company does right by a classic

BWW Review: FUNNY GIRL is a Terrific First for BOMBSHELL THEATRE CO.

Give a warm "Hello, Gorgeous" to Bombshell Theatre Co. and their inaugural production, Funny Girl, on stage now at Elm Grove's Sunset Playhouse through January 16th. Bombshell is a new non-profit "dedicated to spotlighting local talent through extravagant theatrical storytelling."

The company founders, Tim Albrechtson and Eric Welch, are devoted to reviving rarely-told theatrical stories and showcasing the transformative power of hair and makeup. The two also appear in this production of Funny Girl -- Albrechtson as Eddie Ryan and Welch as Nick Arnstein. Welch is also the show's Director.

For those unfamiliar, Funny Girl is the musical telling of real-life comedienne Fanny Brice and her soaring rise from Vaudeville to Broadway in the early 1900s. On film, the role of Fanny is famously played by the iconic Barbra Streisand. But despite the compelling story, killer songs, and Fanny's elite status, it's been almost 40 years since a production of Funny Girl graced a Milwaukee-area stage. High time for a revival!

Playing the titular role in this Bombshell Theatre Co. production is Bryanna VanCaster, who is no stranger to Wisconsin stages. She's played Lady Larken in Once Upon a Mattress, Maureen in Rent, Belle in Beauty & the Beast, and many more. While each of these roles no doubt requires mighty vocals, which VanCaster certainly owns, rarely does a part also hinge so much on natural humor. As Fanny Brice, VanCaster slays it, proving her comedic instincts in her spot-on delivery, hilarious expressions, and funny physicality. She's a delight from start to finish.

Opposite VanCaster is Welch as the stoic lover-boy "Nicky Arnstein, Nicky Arnstein." Welch's Arnstein is suave and self-assured with an affectation of distinction, fitting of a gambler whose luck and life-of-luxury ebb and flow. Welch possesses a strong voice, so it's only too bad the musical doesn't give Arnstein more to sing about.

One of the best things about seeing a story performed on stage that has already been immortalized on film? Noticing the differences between the two. Most notably are a number of songs that you won't find in the Streisand version. A fun one is "We Taught Her Everything," performed by Fanny's likable theater pal Eddie Ryan (Albrechtson) and Fanny's dry-witted mother Mrs. Brice (Marcee Doherty-Elst). It's a cute toe-tapper, as is "Henry Street," performed by the wonderful ensemble.

In fact, this ensemble particularly brings it in the dance department. "Henry Street" features lively choreography, and there's even some tap-dancing in Act Two. Between the choreo, the inventive staging and production design with its use of projections, and the eye-popping costumes, this production is larger than it appears at a glance. The Marla Eichmann Studio Theater at the Sunset Playhouse doesn't have a very wide footprint, and this fierce Funny Girl could hold its own on a bigger stage -- more space for movement, and perhaps microphones for the leads.

It's evident that a lot of love and hard work went into this production, and if this cast keeps doing what they're doing, they're on track to charm audiences throughout their two-weekend run. What a fun and terrific inaugural production for the new Bombshell Theatre Co.

To see what Bombshell is up to next, visit bombshelltheatre.org.


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From This Author Kelsey Lawler