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Theater Review: Funny Girl

Katerina McCrimmon and Stephen Mark Lukas in Funny Girl. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade.

The answer to the inevitable question is, yes, newcomer Katerina McCrimmon does have the chops to pull off the role of Fanny Brice. The touring company of Funny Girl selected a Miami native known only for a decidedly non-musical role in a Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ Rose Tattoo. It turns out her talents were much broader. In addition to a heartfelt and physical performance that endears Fanny all the way to the back of the balcony, McCrimmon’s every number brings raucous and sustained applause.

The national touring company of Funny Girl. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade.

“Raucous” defines the show in general. It’s ostentatiously colorful and tries a little too hard, but the heart is there, and the star turn keeps the ship afloat. The show revolves around Fanny, and McCrimmon is up to the challenge. Eighties pop icon Melissa Manchester as her mother and Izaiah Montaque Harris as Fanny’s friend Eddie Ryan add immensely to the proceedings, with joyful, all-in performances. They take the spotlight in “Who Taught Her Everything She Knows?”

Izaiah Montaque Harris in Funny Girl. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade.

Also standouts are a delicious Walter Coppage as Florenz Ziegfeld and Eileen T’Kaye (founding producer at Pasadena’s Boston Court) as Mrs. Strakosh.

Stephen Mark Lukas understudied the role of Nick Arnstein during the revival’s Broadway run, and here plays a little too much of a second fiddle to McCrimmon. His new song, “Temporary Arrangement,” acts more as exposition than enhancement, as Nick complains about feeling stifled in an unnecessarily on-the-nose way.

The classic show, with its “People”-pleasing Jule Styne-Bob Merrill score, has an updated book by Harvey Fierstein, based on the original classic by Isobel Lennart. Also added are several jaw-dropping tap dancing sequences featuring Harris and tap choreography by Ayodele Casel. There’s new choreography by Ellenore Scott and direction by Michael Mayer.

The national touring company of in Funny Girl. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade.

There’s also a new opening and closing that evokes Follies, as Fanny, awaiting her husband’s return, reminisces about what led her to her life of wealth, fame and love. People from her life circle her dressing table as she asks, “Do you ever feel like your past is watching you?” Starting at the end and bookending the story with scenes from the middle is comfortable and scaffolds a story that didn’t need scaffolding. Still, when Fanny rises and belts out the final reprise, she brings it all home in a most satisfying way.

It all adds up to the kind of updated classic that tourists flock to Broadway to see. It’s an extravaganza, new but familiar, with great highs and lows, plenty of singing and dancing and a sing-along final curtain. Go see it, and you’ll leave humming and smiling.

Funny Girl is performed at the Ahmanson on Tuesdays through Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm and Sundays at 1:00 pm. and 6:30 pm. The run ends April 28. Tickets are available here.

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Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Theatre West.

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