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A CurtainUp BerkshiresBerkshire Review
Funny Girl by Elyse Sommer
Any minute beautiful girls will be out of style. Then it will be my turn
---The teen-aged Fanny Brice, refusing to be put off by being tossed out of a Brooklyn vaudeville show's chorus. And when her turn comes to have love as well as success, she triumphantly sings "Nobody, but nobody is going to rain on my parade."
 Chris Yates as Nicky Arnstein & Jeanne Goodman as Fanny Brice
Chris Yates as Nicky Arnstein & Jeanne Goodman as Fanny Brice (Photo: Joe Schuyler)
Barrington Stage has gotten its ninth season off to a bravo deserving bang with its bouncy revival of Funny Girl, the 1964 Broadway hit-cum movie hit, that starred Barbra Streisand in the musicalized biography of comedienne Fanny Brice. Julianne Boyd, who has successfully put her own stamp on Kander and Ebb's Cabaret and Jerry Herman's Mack and Mabel, has now done the same thing for the Isobel Lennart's story and Jule Styne and Bob Merrill's music and lyrics. Fortunately, the Consolati Arts Center can accommodate a large audience so when I say, don't miss it, you have a good chance to get tickets even though the show only runs until July 19th.

Though chockfull of memorable songs like "People" and "Don't Rain On My Parade" and delightful dance numbers such as "Sadie, Sadie" and "Rat-tat-tat-tat" Funny Girl revivals are few and far between. For one thing the production numbers of Brice's heyday as the star comedienne of the Ziegfeld Follies' call for elaborate staging and costumes. Even more to the point, Streisand had the looks and vocal power that fit the role so perfectly that the ghost of Streisand's Fanny became an off-putting challenge, especially so after the film which was also a hit. To sidestep the ghost-of-Barbra syndrome, Seth Rudetsky's Actors' Fund of America Benefit concert of the show a few seasons back gave a scene and musical moment to sixteen different Broadway stars. But no Barbra ghost busting subterfuges for Ms. Boyd. Instead she's found a gutsy young unknown named Jeanne Goodman to star in her production. Goodman justifies Ms. Boyd's faith. Without trying to wrestle Barbra's ghost into oblivion, she has created a memorable Fanny -- full of chutzpah and charm, funny yet touchingly vulnerable, agile and with a big belting voice.

The sixteen other cast members are also top drawer. Chris Yates who played Cliff Bradshaw in Boyd's Cabaret (review) is deliciously debonair as the leading man, Nicky Arnstein (played by Sydney Chaplin on Broadway and Omar Sharif in the film). Happily he not only looks great in the ruffled shirt that first captivates Fanny but has a strong presence and fine singing voice. In the interest of romance, Arnstein, the love of Fanny's life whose troubles with the law finally ended their marriage, is understandably whitewashed in the play -- a high flying gambler instead of the gangster he was and too proud to live off her earnings, as the real Arnstein was not.

Laura Kenyon acquits herself better than well as Fanny's mother, as does Bertilla Baker as her nudg-y friend Mrs. Strakosh. Craig Waletsko is another standout as Eddie Ryan, Fanny's best pal, dance teacher and manager. His peppy "Rat-tat-tat-tat " is just one showcase for him, the versatile multi-tasking ensemble and Tony Parise's choreography. Flo Ziegfeld who first appears as a distant and forbidding Wizard of Oz style voiceover , ends up in the form of the gentlemanly, likeable stage presence of James Van Treuren. In fact, he becomes putty in Fanny's hands after he insists that she ends a bridal scene singinging "I Am Beautiful" and she obeys, but with her own comic and crowd pleasing twist.

Aided by Michael Anania's sets, Katherine Noland's snazzy costumes and F. Mitchell Dana's effective lighting, this is one of Ms. Boyd's most lavish and inventively staged productions. It makes you completely forget that this venue is a high school auditorium transformed into a summer theater. This sense of Broadway in the Berkshires is reinforced by the pit cleverly carved right into the front of the stage to accommodate Jono Mainelli's 6-piece band.

For those who want to know more about the real Fanny Brice, the BSC program has provided a helpful, photo illustrated two-page backgrounder. The Summer 2003 BSC newsletter also provides some fascinating background on the musical's tumultuous ride to its triumphant Winter Garden run -- the failed attempt to make it into a movie by Brice's son-in-law. . .the casting of Streisand only after Mary Martin, Anne Bancroft and Carol Burnett turned down the part. . .the disastrous Boston tryout which seeded more than 42 scene rewrites, the hiring and firing of four directors and four title changes. Like Fanny Brice, the show made it against all odds. Unlike all that reworking between Boston and Broadway, I wouldn't change a thing about BSC's Funny Girl!

Funny Girl
Book: by Isobel Lennart; Music by Jule Styne; Lyrics by Bob Merrill Directed by Julianne Boyd
Musical direction by Jono Mainelli i
Choreography by Tony Parise
Cast (in order of appearance):Jeanne Goodman --Fanny Brice; Nicholas Carriere-- Paul/Ensemble; Lori Alexander-- Emma / Ensemble;Laura Kenyon-- Mrs. Brice; Bertilia Baker-- Mrs. Strakosh;Jennie Burkhard-- Mrs. Meeker/Pianist/Reporter;Tina Pagliasotti --Mrs. O'Malley;Gordon Stanley-- Keeney/Mr. Rinaldi; Craig Waletzko--Eddie Ryan; Ryan Meldrum--Heckle / Ensemble; Christopher Yates--Nick Arnstein; James Van Treuren--Florenz Ziegfeld; Luke Longacre-Ziegfeld Tenor / Ensemble; James Carrothers-- John/Ensemble;Melinda Cowan--Mimsey/Ensemble; Macey Long--Jenny/Ensemble;Rose O'Hara--Vera/Ensemble
Scenic Designer: Michael Anania
Costume Design: Katherine Noland
Lighting Design: F. Mitchell Dana
Sound Design: Randy Hansen
Band: Jono Mainelli--Conductor/Pianist; Bobby Nafarrete--Keyboards; Dennis Arcano-- Drummer/Percussion; Jeff Stevens--Trumpet;Geoff Vidal--/Reed; David Warnpier--Trombone
Running Time: 2 1/2 Hours, plus one 15-minute intermission
Barrington Stage at theConsolati Performing Arts Center, Sheffield, MA (413/528-8888
Website
June 25, 2003 through July 29, 2003
Tues-Sun performances
Review by Elyse Sommer based on June 29th 5pm show

Act One
  • Overture
  • Poker Chant No. 1/Mrs Brice & Mrs. Strakosh
  • If A Girl /Isn't Pr&ty/ Mrs. Strakosh, Eddie, Heckle Pc Company
  • I'm The Greatest Star/Fanny
  • Cornet Man/ Fanny Pc the Keeney Dancers
  • Nicky Arnstein No. 1/ Fanny
  • Who Taught Her Everything?/ Mrs. Brice & Eddie
  • His Love Makes Me Beautiful /Ziegfeld Tenor, Fanny & Ziegfeld dancers
  • I Want To Be Seen With You Tonight/ Nick & Fanny
  • Nicky Arnstein No. 2/ Fanny
  • Henry Street People/ Company
  • People/Fanny
  • Poker Chant No. @/Mrs. Brice & Mrs. Strakosh
  • You Are Woman, I Am Man/Nick & Fanny
  • Don't Rain On My Parade/Fanny
Act Two
  • Entr'acte
  • Sadie, Sadie/ Fanny & Company
  • Rot-tat-tat-tat/ Eddie, Fanny & Company
  • Reprise: People/ Fanny
  • Downtown Rag/ Ensemble
  • The Music That Makes Me Dance/ Ensemble
  • Finale: Don't Rain On My Parade/ Fanny
deb and harry's wonderful things -  crafts .  yarns


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