“Funny Girl” delivers showstopping performances at Playhouse Square

The classic 1964 musical “Funny Girl” hit Playhouse Square at the start of spring break, bringing with it Fanny Brice’s story of ambition, love and the price of fame. While this rendition was not nearly a Barbara Streisand equivalent, the cast performances, sets and lighting still made for a memorable viewing experience.

The show revolves around the titular “Funny Girl” Fanny (Katerina McCrimmon) who wants to enter the 1920s Broadway scene. Along the way, Fanny is met with criticism and doubts from theater owners, neighbors, friends and even her own mother, all who feel her unshapely figure and quirky personality will keep her from the spotlight. Still, with help from her choreographer friend Eddie Ryan (Izaiah Montaque Harris), Fanny secures a permanent spot in the Ziegfeld Follies, where she rises to comedic stardom.

In addition to her career path, the show highlights Fanny’s tumultuous marriage to Nick Arnstein (Stephen Mark Lukas), a con artist and gambler in serious financial trouble. Arnstein is suave, no doubt about it, but his charm is a guise for a criminal background. Even after Fanny’s repeated attempts to help him, Arnstein still finds himself buried in bad choices that eventually lead to a prison sentence. The marital troubles that ensue prove to be a core feature of the show from the very beginning.

“Funny Girl” remains a prominent part of Streisand’s legacy, and this version did not disappoint. The casting was exquisite, the sets dynamic and the costumes and lighting all came together to immerse the audience in the 1920s scene. Katerina McCrimmon was breathtaking as Fanny, achieving the comedic timing and powerful vocals needed for this demanding role. Still, while the supporting actors’ performances were equally as fulfilling—able to emulate emotions through gestures and tones—their characters felt a bit underdeveloped and left something to be desired.

In terms of its musical numbers, “Funny Girl” was a knockout. The score is full of unforgettable tunes, from the iconic anthem “Don’t Rain on My Parade” to the tender ballad “People.” Aside from Fanny’s moments, Eddie’s tap solo at the beginning of the show was a true joy to watch, as was the tap dance duo later in the show, with both receiving uproarious applause from the audience.

However, it was the costuming that really tied the production together. Like her personality, Fanny’s outfits were colorful and bright, capturing the gaze of everyone in the audience. Her Follies performance outfits were the real winners, with both her sergeant outfit and her maternity outfit—fitted with a fake belly—selling the funny in “Funny Girl.”

Much like the costumes, the set pieces were detailed and helped flesh out the environment. Part of this was because the show used a series of rotating background tapestries, but also each unique location featured in the show had its own set arrangement. As a result, there was a lot of movement and dynamism to show the actors’ progression through space.

As with any musical, there were some oddities, like everyone’s New York accents completely disappearing as they started singing. But though the accent change was jarring, the singing was beautiful, and the choreography was entertaining while also being accessible and engaging. It is also worth giving a shout-out to the live pit orchestra, which alleviated any concerns of backtracking that other shows had.

The one point of criticism to be had is the ambiguous timeline of events. For one, information as to what decade the show was set in was not apparently obvious as everything from the dress to the set backgrounds could have been from any part of the early 20th century. Secondly, there are some large time gaps in the show—for example, the three years between Nicky going to prison and getting released. There was very little in the show to signify these gaps, which would only become apparent upwards of five minutes into the next scene, causing a brief moment of confusion.

That being said, if you’re looking for a night of laughter, tears and powerful musical numbers, “Funny Girl” is a sure bet. Bold performances and an iconic soundtrack make for a musical that is well worth the watch.

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