Review: A Dazzling Revival of FUNNY GIRL Ushers in All the Laughs at Straz Center for The Performing Arts

South Florida’s own Katerina McCrimmon leads a knock-out cast that will leave you begging for more, as this is one Parade that could never be rained on.

By: Dec. 01, 2023
Review: A Dazzling Revival of FUNNY GIRL Ushers in All the Laughs at Straz Center for The Performing Arts
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“People don’t change....Not really...”- Nick Arnstein

“You made me feel almost sort of beautiful...”-Fanny Brice

Funny Girl is a semi-autobiographical comedic musical about the life and times of comedian and Broadway star Fanny Brice, and her tumultuous relationship with entrepreneur and gambler Nick Arnstein. With a musical score by Jules Styne, lyrics by Bob Merill, and featuring a book by Isobel Lennart, Funny Girl first opened on Broadway in 1964 featuring Barbara Streisand in the starring role, and was produced by Fanny’s own son-in-law Ray Stark.

The first Broadway production received 8 Tony Nominations at the 18th Annual Awards Ceremony, and the OBC (Original Broadway Cast) Recording was inducted into the Grammy’s Hall of Fame in 2004.

Featuring a rousing score of 17 musical numbers including favorites such as “People,” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” there is surely not a karaoke bar that hasn’t heard many a rendition of either of these tunes.

The musical opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on March 26,1964 following 17 preview performances. The production then later transferred to the Majestic Theatre and the Broadway Theatre where it saw its closing performance on July 1, 1967, completing 1,348 regular performances. Directed by Garson Kanin and featuring a principal cast of Barbara Streisand, Sydney Chaplin, Kay Medford, Danny Meehan, Jean Stapleton, and Lainie Kazan.

Stemming from the Original Broadway Production many other productions have been included in the West End, and Tours, as well as Productions in Australia, Paris, and revivals both in the West End and the most recently closed Broadway Revival. The most recent beginning a National Tour in Providence, Rhode Island on September 9, 2023, starring the incredibly talented Katerina McCrimmon.

The original Broadway version and that of the 2022 Revival currently touring the country had differences and similarities throughout. One of the biggest differences is the 17 musical numbers heard in the original to the whopping 27 numbers in the revival. Another difference is how both shows begin.  In the Original Broadway production, Fanny is seen as stage-struck teen who just landed her first gig in Vaudeville. Whereas in the opening of the revival, Fanny is in present time for the period, and sitting in her dressing room preparing to star in the Ziegfeld Follies, while she waits to hear if her husband Nicky has been freed from prison, and she reminisces on events of her earlier life. Then as you would have it we move back in time to the moment the Original Broadway Production began. In these moments it lends to the more human qualities of Fanny, and we get to see the root of who she is to become before we dive into exposition. This is a wonderful way to set up the new staging, especially for those being introduced to the story for the first time. Throughout the revival we see her career rise from chorus girl to headlining the Ziegfeld Follies, all while coming to terms with a new romance and the tumultuous ups and downs the couple traverses. All leading up to a realization that people never really change. Through comedic numbers, and soaring love songs, beautiful duets, and unforgettable dancing, Funny Girl will make your heart soar, and ache all at the same time. This is classic Broadway at its best, newly reinvented, cherished by the older generation, and becoming a new favorite of the younger audience.

Led magnificently by the beautifully talented Katerina McCrimmon, this top-notch cast leaves everything onstage and leaves the audience wanting more!

Katerina McCrimmon is the perfect Fanny Brice, and the truest embodiment of the character. A South Florida native, Katerina fills some very big shoes and proves she is the absolute it-girl! There is no mistaking her natural comedic timing, and her powerful voice, backed by a very strong stage presence from the first time she utters, “Hello, Gorgeous!” I fell in love with this show all over again, and in the capable hands of Ms. McCrimmon the sky is the limit, and her Fanny Brice, will go down as one of the strongest turns to date.

As Nick Arnstein, Stephen Mark Lukas is the perfect man for the perfect moment. His vocals are swoon-worthy, and with dashing good looks, he epitomizes the perfect male lead. Strong moments include “Temporary Arrangement,” “You Are Woman, I Am Man,” and “Who Are You Now.” His harmonies soar with Ms. McCrimmon’s Fanny, and the chemistry between the two is absolutely off the charts. Straight from the Broadway Revival, Stephen Mark Lukas fits like a glove with this top-notch Company.

Izaiah Montaque Harris is a marvel as Eddie Ryan. From vocals to exceptional choreography and outstanding moments with both Fanny and Mrs. Brice, Izaiah is a show-stopper. His tap dancing moments is out of this world and will blow you away, but its the heart of his character that sold his moments in the show. Izaiah is a wonderful addition to this Company.

Barbara Tirrell is a wonderful Mrs. Brice. Full of comedic moments, and great mother- daughter camaraderie with Ms. McCrimmon. Her vocals are great, and the moments with Mrs. Strakosh, and Mrs. Meeker are hilarious to watch. Reminds me of all the times around the Euchre table.

As Tom Keeney, David Foley, Jr. once again brings a human quality to a larger than life character. Having last witnessed Mr. Foley onstage locally in a new musical “Oz,” at freeFall Theatre, it was great to have him in the bay area once again, sharing his love of telling beautiful stories, and sharing his talents with us.

Christine Bunuan and Eileen T’Kaye as Mrs. Meeker and Mrs. Strakosh respectively, share time on stage with Mrs. Tirrell’s Mrs. Brice, and the camaraderie between the three ladies is unmatched. Great moments of comedic timing, and wonderful moments share with Fanny, make this trio an unstoppable match.

Rounding out the company are Hannah Shankman, Leah Platt (Emma, Mrs. Nadler), Ryan Lambert (John, Rat-Tat-Tat-Man), Jackson Grove (Piano Player, Cornet Man, Tenor, Porter), Rodney Thompson (Cornet Man), Jordon Taylor (Polly), Dot Kelley (Maude), Walter Coppage (Florenz Ziegfeld), Kate E. Cook (Virginia), Alex Hartman (Vera), Sean Thompson (Paul, Porter, Bartender,Mr. Renaldi), Sami Murphy (Mimsey), Lamont Brown (Rat-Tat-Tat-Man), and a stellar Ensemble featuring Lamont Brown, Kate E Cook, Julia Grondin, Jackson Grove, Alex Hartman, Dot Kelley, Ryan Lambert, Kathy Liu, Meghan Manning, Sami Murphy, Jordon Taylor, Rodney Thompson, and Sean Thompson.  All very much deserving of the many accolades for their commitment to telling this beautiful story. Not a weak link in the entire company, this Funny Girl will have you laughing so much your sides will hurt.

This outstanding company is backed by an incredibly talented orchestra led by Elaine Davidson, and featuring Christian Regul, Mark E. Oates, Tansie Mayer, Sam Kurzontkowski, and Paul Hannah. Also highlighting the incredible talents of local musicians. Woonkuo Soon, Joshua Dampier, Rocio Mendoza-Silva, Ken Brown, Stan Wilkerson, Mark Trotter, John Yoakum, David Tagliarini, and Mark Neuenschwander.

Featuring soaring musical numbers, unbelievable harmonic duets, and songs that will leave you speechless, Funny Girl will make you want to come back for more. The wonderfully timed choreography moments, keep the tempo of the show moving at a rapid pace, and this cast is 1000% in-sync and never misses a beat. This is not your Grandma’s Funny Girl.

Fall in love all-over again with the magic of live-theatre. Fall in love with a classic musical, revised for a new generation, I know I did!  Laugh till it hurts, and let your heart swell with the true power of romance, backed by beautiful music, exciting choreography, and explosive talent, The Revival Company of Funny Girl is not to be missed. Visit www.strazcenter.org for tickets. Playing now through Sunday December 3,2023.

Cause I’m better on stage than at intermission...

I know when he’s near,

By the thunder I hear in advance,

His words, and his words alone,

Are the words that can start my heart singing

And his is the only music that makes me dance...”

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade




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