Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review: Hello Gorgeous. There’s a New Funny Girl in Town and She’s Terrific

Nicole Parker. Photos by Isaac James Creative
Barbra Streisand was nominated for a Tony Award and won an Oscar for her portrayal of comedienne Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, proving that the right role for the right actress at the right time can create unforgettable musical theatre magic. It’s impossible to separate the star from such iconic songs as “People,” “I’m the Greatest Star” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” but there’s a new star in town and 3-D Theatricals is parading her out in style.

Funny girl Nicole Parker, a former Elphaba on Broadway and Emmy award winner for her work on the sketch comedy series MADtv is calling the shots in the iconic role and the result is a sparkling new interpretation of Fanny Brice that audiences will find irresistible. Parker’s got the vocal chops, chutzpah, and unique comic timing that both Streisand and Brice were famous for. She’s also got the energy to carry this one-woman extravaganza from beginning to end. Director Michael Matthews made a smart decision in casting her as his leading lady.

Josh Adamson
Josh Adamson, though a handsome Nicky Arnstein, doesn’t command the attention nor have the chemistry with Parker that would make him more memorable but still delivers a respectable performance, as does the rest of the cast. Character types abound, from the poker-playing foursome of Mrs. Brice (Jean Kauffman), Mrs. Strakosh (Helen Geller), Mrs. Meeker (Carol Kline) and Mrs. O’Malley (Jill Van Velzer) to Venny Carranza’s portrayal of Broadway hoofer, Eddie Ryan, to Gregory North’s sophisticated Florenz Ziegfeld.

The orchestra sizzles under musical director Gerald Sternbach’s direction as does the ensemble in Kami Seymour’s Ziegfeld girl staging and large ensemble tap production number. Jules Ferrin’s sound is perfection, largely because it allows every word and every note to be heard and understood. 

3-D’s technical departments always run at high performance level and the design team for Funny Girl creates an authentic turn of the century/1920s look for the show. Jean-Yves Tessier’s lighting streams daylight shadows down across Stephen Gifford’s brownstones on the Lower East Side when scenes take place at the Brice home on Henry Street and he gently illuminates Fanny and Nick in romantic moonlight on the balcony. A well-placed set of footlights and minimalist spot set off Fanny’s showstopping finale while Gifford’s backstage recreations, rehearsal hall, and Follies stage are full of period detail.

Cheryl Sheldon’s costumes capture much of the life of the characters, from the neighborhood practicality of working people, to the lavish costumes of the Follies showgirls. Fanny’s awkward elegance is personified in Sheldon’s choice of colors and styles like her bold lime green and hot purple pantsuit, and simple gold dress for the finale that allows the music and emotion be the focus.

Nicole Parker (Fanny) with Tory Trowbridge, Leslie Miller and Jules Chavarria

Large cast musicals have become the mainstay of 3-D Theatricals’ family run company and Funny Girl is a welcome opportunity to see a classic Jule Styne/Bob Merrill musical that isn’t often produced. With a star-making performance by its leading lady, a brilliant musical score that overcomes the weaknesses in its book, and rich technical elements that recall the early days of the theatre, it isn't likely that anyone will be able to rain on 3-D Theatricals’ parade.

FUNNY GIRL

Through Sept. 22, 2013 at Plummer Auditorium, Fullerton
Sept. 27 - 29, 2013 at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, Redondo Beach
For tickets call (714) 589-2770 x 1 or go to www.3DTshows.com.


Comedy Faceposted by Ellen Dostal, MusicalsInLA @
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