Review: FUNNY GIRL at Providence Performing Arts Center

National tour launch at PPAC!

By: Sep. 20, 2023
Review: FUNNY GIRL at Providence Performing Arts Center

Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) kicks off the 2023/2024 theater season with the national tour launch of the long-awaited revival of the legendary Broadway musical, “Funny Girl.”

“Funny Girl” premiered on Broadway in 1964 and introduced a young talent by the name of Barbra Streisand. Streisand went on to star in the 1968 film adaptation and won an Academy Award for her performance. The recently closed revival featured Beanie Feldstein in the title role, who was later replaced by Lea Michele of “Glee.”

With music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, and Isobel Lennart’s book (revised by Harvey Fierstein), “Funny Girl” is based on the personal life and career of performer and comedian, Fanny Brice, and her tumultuous relationship with the debonair gamester, Nick Arnstein. The familiar soundtrack includes the Streisand megahit, “People,” and the classic, animated anthem, “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”

From the instant the orchestra strikes its first note of the overture, the nostalgic mood is set, and the energy and excitement continue to build from that moment on. The curtain rises on Fannie, played by Katerina McCrimmon, in her dressing room backstage, anxiously waiting and hoping for her husband, Nicky, to show up. She then begins to reflect upon her life and the long road traveled that made her a star.

The audience travels back in time to New York City around the time of the first World War, when a young Fannie is fired from her first vaudeville job. With the help of her friend, Eddie Ryan (Izaiah Montaque Harris), Fannie’s amusing antics eventually earn the attention of Theater Mogul, Florenz Ziegfeld (a stately, stoic Walter Coppage), who makes her a household name. During her rise to stardom, Fannie also meets Arnstein (Stephen Mark Lukas), and the two eventually marry, but their relationship is hardly a model of contentment.

From start to finish, the production is one show-stopping number after another, with eye-catching, intricate sets, magnificent dance routines, and finely detailed, colorful costumes that perfectly recreate the era. “Henry Street,” the dazzling show-within-a-show, features all the quintessential trimmings of a vintage stage act that would make Ziegfeld himself proud.

With “I’m the Greatest Star,” McCrimmon proves from the get-go that she is up to the task of this especially demanding role. Her rendition of “People” is both touching and titillating, and she makes “Parade” uniquely her own, closing out the first act on the highest of notes, literally and figuratively. To call McCrimmon's performance a tour de force would not do it justice, and if her name isn’t familiar now, rest assured, it will be soon.

Although his character, Eddie, doesn’t mind playing second fiddle to Fannie, Montaque Harris, a tap dancing master, steals every scene with his fancy footwork and immeasurable charisma. Nevertheless, Lukas proves there is plenty of charm to go around with his exemplary portrayal of the sophisticated albeit shady Nick Arnstein. Despite his wrongdoing, Nick’s poignant final song, “You’re a Funny Girl,” garners sympathy rather than resentment.

Song siren Melissa Manchester plays Fannie’s outspoken mother, Mrs. Brice, with confidence and eloquence, and her inseparable friends-in-tow, Mrs. Strakosh (Eileen T’Kaye) and Mrs. Meeker (Christine Bunuan) are equally candid and entertaining. Finally, Leah Platt’s diligent, understated performance as Emma, Fannie’s loyal, sensitive assistant, is worthy of honorable mention.

The long overdue revival of “Funny Girl” is an extraordinary theatrical experience, complete with unforgettable songs and top-notch performances.

For more information about the “Funny Girl” North American tour, visit To learn more about the upcoming season at Providence Performing Arts CenterClick Here.

Photo by Evan Zimmerman

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