note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
This was some weekend for a musical junkie like me. From the Longwood Players’ dazzling NINE to Fiddlehead Theatre’s high voltage FUNNY GIRL to my favorite opera, DON GIOVANNI (cleverly referenced in NINE) it was my idea of heaven.
Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit’s NINE (at the Cambridge Y thru May 2nd) is a tough musical to pull off. Federico Fellini may have had the most gorgeous women in the world worshipping at his feet in real life---But in a fictional account about the charismatic director (based on his film 8 ½) you need a handsome rogue to make it work. The good news is that Longwood has Anthony Mullin. Even with a case of laryngitis on opening night, Mullin projects the requisite charm and self-deprecating humor for us to clearly see why women are clamoring for his attention.
Swirling around the demanding Don Juan are Eliza Xenakis as his elegant, sophisticated muse, Fran Betylon as his tempestuous mistress, Janet Ferreri as his demanding producer, Katie Pickett as the voluptuous whore and Shannon Mühs as his weary, longsuffering wife. Director Kevin Mark Kline gets hilarious and heartfelt performances from every member of the talented ensemble. Julia Scott Carey’s orchestra plays Yestin’s lovely score with warmth and lyrical texture. Don’t miss it. This NINE has incalculable charms.
FUNNY GIRL (at Fiddlehead thru May 3rd) has to have a stellar performer in the role of the great comedienne---- and happily, Fiddlehead has Bridget Bierne as the incomparable Fanny Brice. If you’ve not seen Bierne before, now is the time. She’s poised for a Broadway career if, as the saying goes, there’s any justice in the world. Is there higher praise than to say you won’t think of Streisand, not once! Not even when Bierne belts out the showstopper, “Don’t Rain on my Parade.”
Director Stacey Stephens makes Jule Styne, Bob Merrill and Isobel Lennart’s backstage melodrama sparkle by surrounding Bierne with a first rate supporting cast. Ellen Peterson is unstoppable as Fanny’s formidable mama and David Costa gives the song and dance man heart. Their chemistry makes “Who Taught her Everything?” one of the show’s most memorable numbers. David Krinitt does the impossible: He makes Fanny’s cad of a husband sympathetic and Catherine Lee, Marian Rambelle and Christine Kenney brighten the home front as the kibitzing Henry Street poker ladies.
Styne’s score gets pizzazz from music director Charles Pelz’s orchestra and Ilyse Robbins provides whimsical choreography for the production numbers. Stephens’ spectacular costumes are the frosting on the cake. FUNNY GIRL is a party you don’t want to miss.