Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham
Originally opening in New York in 1964, the production ran over three years. The role of Fanny Brice made a household name of then unknown Barbra Streisand, shooting her to instant stardom. With fantastic music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Bob Merrill, the show introduced the world to standards like "Don't Rain on My Parade" and "People." All the classic songs are here, under the supervision of Michael Rafter, with beautiful orchestrations by Chris Walker. Audiences are greeted by the classic overture, which is missing in many modern musicals of today. And what a treat to hear it live in a theater. The book by Isobel Lennart has been revised slightly by Harvey Fierstein, and the entire production is overseen with the keen eye of award-winning director Michael Mayer. Mayer embraces classic musical storytelling technique, utilizing the bare scenic design of David Zinn to emphasize the characters above all. What is the most evident on stage beyond the performances themselves is Kevin Adams' striking lighting design that transforms the rather bare stage into a feast for the eyes. Fans of the original 1960s production will embrace Susan Hilferty's homage to the original costume design of Irene Sharaff while still providing her own flourishing touch.
Due to a reported foot injury, Melissa Manchester was not present for the role of Fanny's humorous and loving mother (replaced by Barbara Tirrell). She will be out for the duration of the North Carolina stop and some beyond. But, even with her absence, the rest of the cast shine on brilliantly. Standout Izaiah Montaque Harris makes the stage his own with phenomenal tap dancing as Fanny's lovelorn friend, Eddie Ryan. (The dazzling tap choreography is by Ayodele Casel.) Stephen Mark Lukas as Fanny's husband Nick Arnstein seems uncomfortable on the stage with some newer songs added to beef up the role. His second act solo song "Temporary Arrangement" was added for the 2016 West End production. A handful of other songs have also been added to the second act, such as a brief Follies number "What Do Happy People Do" (new for the 2022 Broadway revival), "Funny Girl," and a dream ballet that seems heavily inspired by the musical Follies. All feel unneeded and awkward, none so much as Nick's awkward dance number as previously stated with uninspired choreography by Ellenore Scott. But the show is all about the "funny girl" or rather the spectacular Katerina McCrimmon who portrays her. She illuminates the stage with every line and song she belts. (and what a belt) Ms. McCrimmon is the next best thing to seeing Ms. Streisand in the role and does not disappoint.
Funny Girl presented by Truist Broadway, runs through November 12, 2023, at Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St. Durham NC. For tickets and information, please visit www.dpacnc.com or the Ticket Center at DPAC in person or by phone at 919-680-2787. For more information on the tour, visit funnygirlonbroadway.com/tour/.
Music: Jule Styne