note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Sheila Barth
From overture to finale, Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre production of “Funny Girl” is satisfyingly sensational - better yet - Shoshanational - because of Broadway’s Shoshana Bean, the sterling cast, sumptuous period costumes, superlative,slick choreography, and superb musicians. Meticulously guided by director-choreography James Brennan, the almost three-hour show doesn’t miss a beat.
In fact, this season-opening show is a blockbuster in every way.
Bean doesn’t take a back seat to superlative Barbra Streisand, whose career catapulted to stardom after starring in “Funny Girl,” on stage and screen, years ago. With Bean’s powerful voice, comedic and dramatic clout, plus her impeccable timing, she has resurrected Fanny Brice’s meteoric rise to international stardom and her doomed romance to husband Nick Arnstein.
Although Brice was renowned as the non-pretty leading star of the iconic 1920s-1930s Ziegfeld Follies’ leggy, glamorous extravaganzas -precursor to today’s Las Vegas’ dazzling shows - senior citizens affectionately will also remember Brice for her creation of legendary comic character, Baby Snooks.
Whether Bean’s sadly flashing back in the mirror of her backstage dressing room or exulting in her remarkable success and happiness, Bean is compelling,especially during her pensive rendition of “People,” to her bombastic declaration, “Don’t Rain on My Parade”.
Revere residents also take immense pride in their own Broadway star, Susan Cella, who portrays Fanny’s mother, Brooklyn saloon owner, Rose Brice. Besides lending Brooklyn neighborhood-style sarcastic wit, Cella shines in song “Poker Chant”. She outdoes herself in her whimsical duet “Who Taught Her Everything?,’” with dancer extraordinaire Rick Faugno, in his role as stage hoofer-Fanny’s friend/mentor, Eddie Ryan. Then, Cella astounds theatergoers, performing a full split in an ensemble number.
Cella’s naturally charismatic with Bean, Faugno, and Sandy Rosenberg, effective;y portraying Rose’s ever-nosey, best-friend neighbor, Mrs. Strakosh.
Through flashback, “Funny Girl” covers Brice’s relentless perseverance to become a star, charting her own path from an unknown, unchosen, unpretty performer to international stardom. Despite Rose and her Brooklyn sidekicks, theater managers and agents declaring “If A Girl Isn’t Pretty,” she won’t get anywhere in show biz, Brice bellows, “I’m the Greatest Star,” determined to prove everyone wrong.
When Brice encounters drop-dead, handsome gambler-promoter Nick Arnstein (tall,dark,handsome Bradley Dean), she’s dumbstruck. Throughout their charming courtship, marriage, and ultimate breakup, Bean and Dean’s electricity keep theatergoers rapt.
Music Director Mark Hartman and orchestra produce the right combination of tempo and tone, coupled with lighting designer Jack Mehler’s magic. As props and cast arise and descend from the theater-in-the-round’s center stage or on the sidelines, Mehler’s spotlight captures every nuance.
It’s unusual for audiences to applaud after individual scenes throughout the performance, but this exuberant cast and crew are so cohesive, their enthusiasm reverberates throughout the theater.
“Funny Girl” is pure joy. I hope you get to see it. It’s a wonderful Father’s Day present for families to share. I bet you walk out tapping your toes, singing “People” and “Don’t Rain on my Parade”.