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“Funny Girl” Dazzles at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Photo courtesy of the Dr. Phillips Center

Make no mistake about it, this show belongs to Fanny Brice. It’s right there in the title, “Funny Girl.”

“I’m a bagel on a plate full of onion rolls”

Fanny Brice

It always helps to have a stellar supportive cast, a lush orchestra, confetti cannons shooting off mid-show, chorus “girls” with legs up to their ears wearing dazzling costumes, all the bells and whistles. But when you come right down to it, the show rests on the slight shoulders of the actress who plays Fanny.

“Funny Girl” has become so enmeshed with Barbra Streisand and for good reason; it was the role that shot her to stardom back in 1964, earning her an Oscar and Golden Globe for the 1968 movie version also starring Omar Sharif.

The much-touted 2022 Broadway revival originally starred Beanie Feldstein, eventually leading to Lea Michele, former star of “Glee” taking over the role, to some controversy and eventual raves. After 59 years, “Funny Girl” is once again a hot ticket.

Miami’s own Katerina McCrimmon leads the Parade with nary a cloud in sight.

Katerina McCrimmon as Fanny Brice in the First National Touring Company of Funny Girl Photo courtesy of the Dr Phillips Center

The 2020 graduate of Florida State University and Miami native, Katerina McCrimmon has bravely stepped into the role of Fanny Brice in the Broadway National Touring production, now playing at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts through Dec. 10.

If you’re tempted to hold off to see the show on Broadway, don’t. McCrimmon is a star on the rise. Her Fanny Brice is a revelation; vulnerable, adorable, an exquisite comedienne gifted with a rare voice that simply does not stop. She makes the part her own and considering she’s following in the footsteps of Streisand, that’s a daunting task.

Funny Girl Tells Fanny Brice’s Story

“Funny Girl” tells the story of real-life vaudeville comedienne and Ziegfeld star Fanny Brice. From her humble beginnings on the streets of Brooklyn to her turbulent relationship with gambler Nick Arnstein, “Funny Girl” takes the audience on a roller-coaster-of-a-ride journey that defies the stereotypical Broadway show template.

Mazel Tov Fanny First National Touring Company of Funny Girl Photo courtesy of the Dr Phillips Center

There are many theater critics and audience members who find flaws in the production. Some feel the show is problematic, primarily because of the heartbreaking storyline in the second act. Much like “Into the Woods,” where Act One ends with the characters getting their wishes fulfilled, only to progress to Act Two, where they explore the reality of receiving their wish; Act Two of “Funny Girl” follows a similar outline.

The beauty of this current production, with the musical score by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, book by Isobel Lennart, and beautifully updated by Harvey Fierstein, is that it does a marvelous job with the finale. After so much heartbreak and loss, Fanny finds her strength in letting go and connects with what matters most, her inner joy and passion.

Superb Musical Selection and Cast

“Funny Girl” features a rich score including “People,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “I’m the Greatest Star,” “You Are Woman, I Am Man,” “Sadie, Sadie” and “The Music That Makes Me Dance.” They are all performed superbly by the strong company, featuring standout performances by Stephen Mark Lukas as Nick Arnstein, Lamont Brown as Eddie Ryan, and the three steal stealers, Eileen T’Kaye, Christine Bunuan and Barbara Tirrell as Mrs. Strakosh, Mrs. Meeker and Mrs. Brice.

The First National Touring Company of Funny Girl Photo Courtesy of the Dr Phillips Center

While McCrimmon acts her socks off, it’s her voice that is a revelation. Comparisons to Streisand are inevitable, yet, her voice is more akin to a younger, at her prime, Judy Garland. There’s a softness, a poignant ache in her voice that takes your breath away.

It’s an excellent production with a stellar cast. But from the first scene to the curtain call, the show belongs to McCrimmon’s Fanny Brice. After all, she is one “Funny Girl.”

“Funny Girl”

Walt Disney Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 445 S. Magnolia Ave. in Orlando drphillipscenter.org

Written by T. Michele Walker

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