Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Funny Girl"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2004 by Tony Annicone

"Funny Girl"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Community Players 308th production of their 83rd season is the 1964 musical, "Funny Girl". The show is about Fanny Brice, the singer-comedienne and her rise to stardom set in the years 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 movie version in 1968 won her the best actess Oscar. Despite an overly long first act, some slow scene changes and some slow pacing, this version of the show has an outstanding Fanny Brice, played by Stacey Geer, who gives a tour de force performance, stealing every scene and musical number she is in. She is so wonderful in this role, she almost makes you forget the other 18 performers in the show.

Director/choreographer, Andrew Bobola also appears in the show as the Ziegfeld Tenor in "His Love Makes Me Beautiful", the number where Fanny is dressed as a pregnant bride and which is the funniest number in the show. He also designed the set which Victor Turenne assembled and Joh Ricci painted. (I loved the proscenium arch which was assembled around the stage to give it the early 1900's look.) Michael Savignac handles the musical direction and plays the keyboards for the show. Andrew's daughter, Stephanie choreographed the two tap numbers for the show. Vinny Lupino who puts 100% in everything he does, is the stage manager who is in charge of this large 19 member cast. ( 18 years ago he stage managed a production of "Evita" which I was in and next season he will be directing it for Community Player and I am sure his expertise will shine through.) Another person who always puts 100% in her work with her creation of 112 costumes for this show is Marcia Zammarelli. Her costumes, 22 hats, 21 wigs and 30 pairs of shoes are breathtaking and she should receive many kudos from the audience for her hard work on this show.

Stacey Geer receives a well deserved standing ovation for her hard work as the energetic, multitalented Fanny Brice. Stacey is a triple threat performer, singing, acting and dancing beautifully throughout the show. She handles the comic aspects of the role as well as the dramatic ones in the second act, making you laugh and cry when called for. Stacey's numerous songs include "I'm The Greatest Star", "People", "Don't Rain on My Parade", (a show stopping number that close the first act) "Sadie, Sadie, Married Lady","Who Are You Now" (a tear jerking ballad she sings to her husband, Nick Arstein) and "The Music That Makes Me Dance". (I'm surprised "Who Are You Now" never became a big hit like "People" because it has a lovelier melody to it.) Stacey lights up the stage from her first entrance to closing note of her last song in the show and to quote one of the songs from this show, "She is the Greatest Star". Brava on a job well done.

The very handsome, blond haired blue-eyed, Dan Kirby plays Nick Arstein, the gambling, womanizing man, Fanny falls in love with at first sight. Dan shines in the argument scene when he loses their money when their casino is knocked down when a hurricane hits Florida, leading to a poignant moment when Fanny sings "Who Are You Now" to him. Another fight ensues when Fanny tries to set Nick up as a theatrical agent and the final breakup scene will also leave you in tears. Dan gets to show off his strong baritone voice in "I Want to Be Seen With You Tonight" and "You Are Woman, I Am Man", duets with Stacey and his voice really soars in the reprise of "Don't Rain on My Parade". Some of the comic foils in this show include Karen Kessler as Mrs. Brice, Mary Ann Ricci (complete with padded butt and boobs) as the busybody, Mrs. Strakosh, Steve Pacheco as Mr. Keeney and Ed Mastriano as Eddie Ryan, the tap dancing choreographer who is in love with Fanny. (Karen and Ed do a wonderful soft shoe to "Who taught Her Everything" and Mary Ann joins them in a funny song called "Find Yourself a Man".) So for a look back at the days of the Ziegfeld Follies and Fanny Brice, go see "Funny Girl".

Funny Girl ( 19 March - 4 April)
Jenks Auditorium, Division Street, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
1 (401) 726-6860

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide