Review: Now on Tour, 'Funny Girl' Makes a Splash with New Leading Lady
Will Demers READ TIME: 3 MIN.
Providence Performing Arts Center launches the 2023-24 season with a bang! "Funny Girl" is touring for the first time in 60 years and has so many things going for it, most especially its lead actress, Katerina McCrimmon as Fanny Brice, and the legendary Melissa Manchester playing her mother Rose. But the delights don't end with just those two as the surprises just keep on coming and audiences won't be disappointed in this latest National tour offering.
First, the show itself. The 1964 musical was written by Isobel Lennart (book) with music and lyrics by showbiz legends Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, was later adapted into a highly successful film starring Barbara Streisand in 1968, and became the highest grossing musical of that year. Streisand was the actress who, after all, debuted in the role on Broadway, which was based on the life of Fanny Brice and her stormy relationship with gambler Nicky Arnstein.
The revival had a stormy history all its own. It was to make a Broadway star of film actress Beanie Feldstein starring as Brice. The reviews were underwhelming, with Feldstein getting the brunt of the negative responses for not having the vocal chops. Business was middling and Feldstein announced that she was leaving the show before her expected departure. The producers than announced "Glee" actress Lea Michele would take over the role. This led to Feldstein leaving the production even earlier. But everything came up roses for Michele, who, despite much negative social media commentary, received nothing but raves and saved the show from financial ruin. By the end of the run this summer, the show had made back its investment.
The National company cast is nothing short of spectacular; Manchester imbues Mrs. Brice with the tough love of a showbiz mom and does so with pizzazz. Izaiah Montaque Harris as Eddie Ryan, Fanny's friend is a complete surprise as a tap-dancing superstar, you'll not want to let him out of your sight for a moment. David Foley, Jr. 's Tom Keeney is a hoot as the very Irish show producer whose decision at first to ignore Fanny's talent comes back to bite him. And Stephen Mark Lukas brings a steamy and sexy Nicky Arnstein to vibrant life here.
Directed by Michael Mayer and choreographed by Ellenore Scott, from the opening notes this is a musical worthy of the Providence Performance Arts Center, the grand, 3100 seat venue where the national tour set down on a set of dates that takes it 29 additional cities through August 2024. For those that have never experienced such a splash, this is the one to start with. For information about upcoming dates, follow this link.
That the producers went with a complete unknown only shows their confidence with McCrimmon who makes her tour debut (she previously appeared in the non-singing "The Rose Tattoo" on Broadway) with this role. You'll not often hear a voice as amazing as hers; she is most definitely a young actress who'll go places -- not only can she sing, her performance IS pure musical theater. "Hello Gorgeous" indeed! If you see at least one show this year, seek out this one in your town and you will be telling your friends what a time you had.
"Funny Girl" completed its run in Providence on September 17. For information about upcoming dates.