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REVIEW: "FUNNY GIRL"—Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Updated: Jun 3

Funny Girl is an utterly, timeless, classic feel full of intimate moments, swoon-worthy duets, and old-school Broadway vibes.


COSTA MESA—“When you’re gifted, then you’re gifted,” sings Fanny Brice in the hit revival tour of FUNNY GIRL, currently enjoying a nearly sold-out run at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, playing May 28th through June 9th.


Featuring breakout star Katerina McCrimmon as Fanny Brice, who has mastered a Brooklyn accent and deftly presents Fanny’s comic flourishes as an arsenal of pre-emptive weapons, deflecting criticism and ridicule. Adorably, she scrunches up her face into assorted comic masks, as if in hopes of making us forget that Ms. McCrimmon, unlike the Fanny described in the song “If a Girl Isn’t Pretty,” is, in fact, quite lovely.


Segerstrom Center for the Arts presents, FUNNY GIRL, directed by Michael Mayer, playing May 28th through June 9th.

In fact, when you hear Ms. McCrimmon sing “People,” you will believe you’ve never heard the song before, performing it with a melting delicacy, often substituting a wistful, hopeful reediness instead of the all-conquering brass. And, as she embodies Fanny’s rise from a klutzy dreamer in Brooklyn to a Ziegfeld brand name, her Fanny Brice is rich in the comedy that subtly masks the pain of a tragic romance.


It’s a sparkling, trim take on the romantic and professional fortunes of Brice (1891-1951), the fabled Ziegfeld Follies comedian, and features an eminently hummable score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill—the show that sent Barbra Streisand soaring into a stratosphere from which she has never descended.


Ms. McCrimmon is, no doubt, aware of the stamp with which the tenacious Ms. Streisand still holds on this role and embossed on these songs. Yet it’s very hard to identify a single Streisandesque intonation in her Fanny Brice.


Segerstrom Center for the Arts presents, FUNNY GIRL, directed by Michael Mayer, playing May 28th through June 9th.

Instead, her performance stands on her own and displays the ultimate distillation of the chutzpah and the hunger that it takes to make a stage star, having acquired a gravitas and confidence it takes to move past mimicry. And her vocal phrasing and comedic nuance has transformed what might otherwise have registered as pretty, conventional show tunes into joltingly original anthems of aspiration. She can interpret stone-cold classics like “I’m the Greatest Star” with a technique that nods to Streisand without copying her beat for beat, and her belt on “Don’t Rain on My Parade” fills the theater.


But is this funny girl funny? In a word, yes, but she makes the jokes charming without the hard edge. Ms. McCrimmon approaches Fanny’s one-liners and extended physical comedy bits with a hint of despair that suggests she finds their self-deprecation humiliating. Watch her try desperately to keep a fake mustache glued to her face while patter-singing in an old-timey Yiddish accent. The combination ends up very endearing, almost as if she’s suffering for us.


Segerstrom Center for the Arts presents, FUNNY GIRL, directed by Michael Mayer, playing May 28th through June 9th.

That exocution, in the end, is what makes Ms. McCrimmon's Fanny Brice so compelling. FUNNY GIRL is the story of Fanny’s will to succeed, her determination that she won’t be held back by her skinny legs, the men who can’t see past them, or her unworthy husband. It is the tale of ambition triumphing over all. That’s a quality Katerina McCrimmon has in spades.


Director Michael Mayer has guided his star to a multilayered performance. Ms. McCrimmon’s singing is first rate in comedy numbers such as “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat” as well as the memorable heartbreak ballads “The Music That Makes Me Dance,” and “Who Are You Now?” She is always the clown offstage, illustrating that she must deal with the truth that she could never make it in a show business where “girls” were either hoofers, strippers or showgirls.


The tragedy comes when she rejects the boy-next-door for the glamorous, elegantly dressed, society gambler Nick Arnstein (Stephen Mark Lukas), who represents everything that a poor Brooklyn girl can never achieve. But Fanny’s supreme drive and confidence would be bad news for any man, especially a twenties dandy who values masculine pride above all else.


Segerstrom Center for the Arts presents, FUNNY GIRL, directed by Michael Mayer, playing May 28th through June 9th.

Izaiah Montaque Harris is outstanding as the dance director who loves Fanny for who she is and is always ignored. His singing and tap dancing are exemplary, and when he teams with the great Melissa Manchester (as Fanny’s pushy mother) in “Who Taught Her Everything She Knows,” their comic skills give us a brief respite from the ever-forceful Fanny.


The touring production cast of FUNNY GIRL features Grammy Award®-winning singer-songwriter Melissa Manchester (“Through the Eyes of Love,” “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” “Midnight Blue” —all Hot 100 hits) as Mrs. Brice; Katerina McCrimmon as Fanny Brice; Stephen Mark Lukas as the dashing gambler, Nick Arnstein; Izaiah Montaque Harris as as her tap-dancing best friend from the old neighborhood, Eddie Ryan; Walter Coppage as Florenz Ziegfeld; Leah Platt as Emma/Mrs. Nadler; Cindy Chang as Mrs. Meeker; Eileen T’Kaye as Mrs. Strakosh; and David Foley Jr. as Tom Keeney.


Segerstrom Center for the Arts presents, FUNNY GIRL, directed by Michael Mayer, playing May 28th through June 9th.

The cast also includes Vinny Andaloro, Lamont Brown, Kate E. Cook, Jackson Grove, Alex Hartman, Dot Kelly, Ryan Lambert, Kathy Liu, Meghan Manning, Bryan Charles Moore, Sami Murphy, Emily Anne Nester, Hannah Shankman, Jordon Taylor, Rodney Thompson, Sean Thompson, and Annaliese Wilbur.


FUNNY GIRL is directed by Tony® Award winner Michael Mayer (Thoroughly Modern Millie) and features the classic score by Tony, Grammy®, and Academy® Award winner Jule Styne and lyrics by Tony Award nominee and Grammy Award winner Bob Merrill, (comprising additional songs from Styne & Merrill). The original book by Isobel Lennart, from an original story by Miss Lennart, is revised by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots, Newsies).


FUNNY GIRL, directed by Michael Mayer, features choreography by Ellenore Scott (Falsettos); tap choreography by Ayodele Casel; scenic design by Tony Award winner David Zinn (SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical); costume design by Tony Award winner Susan Hilferty (Wicked); lighting design by Tony Award winner Kevin Adams (Hedwig and the Angry Inch); sound design by Tony Award winner Brian Ronan (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) and Cody Spencer; hair and wig design by Campbell Young Associates; music supervision by Emmy Award winner Michael Rafter; casting by Jim Carnahan, CSA, and Jason Thinger, CSA; orchestrations by Chris Walker; dance, vocal, and incidental music arrangements by Alan Williams, and additional arrangements by David Dabbon and Carmel Dean. The associate director is Johanna McKeon; the associate choreographer is Jeffrey Gugliotti; the assistant director is Torya Beard; the assistant tap choreographer is Dre Torres.


The FUNNY GIRL tour stage management team is led by Production Stage Manager Jovon E. Shuck and is supported by Stage Manager Mariah Young and Assistant Stage Manager Rachael Wilkin. The company management team is led by Company Manager Justin Sweeney with Associate Company Manager Ryan Mayfield. The tour music director/conductor is Elaine Davidson.


Tickets for Funny Girl start at $39 and are available for purchase online at scfta.org, in person at 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, and by phone at (714) 556-2787. Run time (approximate): 2 hour and 40 minutes.

Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report

 



Photo Credits: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade









 

 

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