Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Funny Girl"

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note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone



"FUNNY GIRL"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone



Bill Hanney's North Shore Music Theatre's first show of their 61st season is the 1964 musical "Funny Girl.'' This musical is about Fanny Brice, the singer-comedienne and her rise to stardom before World War I and shortly after it. Her unhappy private life contrasts to her comic onstage antics in the famous Ziegfeld Follies. This is the show that catapulted Barbra Streisand to stardom and the 1968 film version won her the best actress Oscar. This musical is a dynamic song and dance extravaganza. Directed and choreographed expertly by James Brennan with splendid exquisite musical direction by Mark Hartman. The gorgeous period costumes are by Mark Nagle with the many scene pieces by Stephen Dobay. Broadway star Shoshana Bean is dynamite as Fanny Brice. She steals many a scene with her perfect comic time and phenomenal singing voice. Brava!

Bill and Kevin Hill spare no expense in bringing this stunning, opulent musical to Beverly, MA with the costumes, sets and fabulous performers to fill all these roles. Shoshana receives a well deserved standing ovation for her hard work as the energetic, multitalented, Fanny Brice. She is a triple threat performer with her acting, vocal and dancing prowess in this enormous role. She makes this role her very own. Shoshana is a mix between Gilda Radner and Valerie Harper's Rhoda. One of the funniest numbers in this show is "His Love Makes Me Beautiful" where she is dressed as a pregnant bride. Shoshana handles the comic aspects of this role in the first act brilliantly as well as the dramatic ones in the second act, making the audience laugh and cry when called for. Some of her clever shtick includes her trying to put an enormous headdress on her head in comic fashion and her drinking of a dry sherry with hilarious results. Her numerous songs include "I'm The Greatest Star", which is a spectacular start of her vocal prowess,"People", "Don't Rain on My Parade" which stops the show at the end of Act 1, "Sadie, Sadie, Married Lady", "Who Are You Now", a poignant ballad to her husband, Nick and "The Music That Makes Me Dance", a tear jerking number near the close of the show. I don't understand why "Who Are You Now" never became a big hit like "People" because it has a prettier melody to it. Shoshana lights up the stage from her first entrance to the closing note of her last song in the show. To quote one of the songs, "She is the Greatest Star." Brava on a job very well done!

The handsome dark haired, Bradley Dean plays Nick Arnstein, the gambling, womanizer that Fanny falls in love with at first sight. He shines in many scenes especially the argument when he loses their money in a casino in Florida that is knocked down by a hurricane which leads Fanny to sing "Who Are You Now" to prove her undying love for him. Two other dramatic moments include their fight when Fanny tries to set Nick up as a theatrical agent and the final argument which will leave you in tears. Bradley displays his powerful baritone voice in "I Want to Be Seen with You Tonight" and ""You Are Woman, I Am Man" duets with Shoshana and his voice really soars in "Don't Rain On My Parade" reprise. Some of the other comic foils who get to steal scenes are Susan Cella as Mrs. Brice, who drags out the z at the end of Florenz, leading to much laughter. I first saw Susan in "No, No Nanette" at TBTS back in 1974, Sandy Rosenberg as the busybody, Mrs. Strakosh and especially dynamite is Rick Faugno as Eddie Ryan, the choreographer who is secretly in love with Fanny. He has a terrific tenor voice which is heard in "Who Taught Her Everything?", a duet with Susan where they do a marvelous soft shoe routine. Sandy joins them in a comic song called "Find Yourself a Man." where they try to find a man for Mrs. Brice. Susan and Sandy's Jewish accents are fabulous and Rick also does a superb tap dance to "Greatest Star" and starts off the tap dancing in the "Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat" number. James VanTreuren is a hoot as the authoritative Florenz Ziegfeld who has many an argument with Fanny. I last reviewed James as Georges in "La Cage Aux Folles" at Ivoryton Playhouse in 2014. J.D. Daw plays the Ziegfeld tenor who croons "His Love Makes Me Beautiful" where Fanny is dressed as a pregnant bride. I last reviewed J.D. as Jinx in "Forever Plaid" at NSMT back in 2007. A standout tap dance number is "Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat" which stops the show with the expertise of the dancers. So for a trip back to the days of the Ziegfeld Follies, be sure to catch "Funny Girl" at North Shore Music Theatre. What a fabulous way to open their 61st season. Run do not walk to the boxoffice. Tell them Tony sent you~

FUNNY GIRL (7 to 19 June)
North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA
1(978)232-7200 or www.nsmt.org




THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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