Funny Girl 1964 vs 2022 Very Long
Posted by: ianx73 09:05 pm EDT 08/07/22

As a12-year-old pre gay boy, I had the breathtaking opportunity to see Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. ($5.50 for a 5th row orchestra seat on a Wednesday matinee ) although my critical abilities were limited, I recognized theatrical electricity early on and boy was that show electric. I had never seen anyone like Barbra and was overwhelmed by her stage presence and immense talent. The experience remains emblazoned in my mind.
A parlor game for gay men who love musicals was to cast the revival of Funny Girl and Lauren Ambrose (wtf) Leslie Kritzer great but no one has heard of her The closest agreed upon candidate was Lady Gaga but we knew that would never happened. When Beanie Feldstein was cast I was surprised but I like her and thought if she is being cast as Fanny she must have an extraordinary singing voice (Wrong!) and at least she wasn’t Leah Michele (Ha!)! So I decided instead of erasing my memory of the original I would skip this one

When Julie Benko who I had heard great things about was going to do a month of performance, I thought let’s give it a try and saw the show Friday night
First things first, Julie Benko is very good as Fanny. Her singing is exciting, her ability to convey the comic and dramatic aspects very effective. She is very appealing and managed to make the role her own rather than give a carbon cop of Streisand. All in all, she was a good choice to play the role. However, I don’t think that she exhibited the star magnetism to make this creaky show really soar. She did soar in the big numbers but I felt the production undermined her The direction by Michael Mayer is very lax and he didn’t find ways to give it the “socko pizazz” a show like this needs. The sets perhaps were the worst part culprits. Ugly doesn’t begin to describe them. The huge brick rotunda that is the focal point for the show is a monstrosity. When the action takes place in front it, it looks like they’re in a Soviet Union prison. Things get even worse when this thing opens up to reveal other scenes. Many scenes use these mirrors, which I guess are supposed to be smoky but instead just look dirty and cheap. The Ziegfeld numbers are gaudy but cheap and ugly The His Love Make Me Beautiful number doesn’t have a staircase for the girls to descend. Fanny comes unceremoniously out from the sides, completely undermining the humor and surprise. Those scenes are under populated and give no sense of the glamor of a Ziegfeld number, Let’s not even discuss the miserable and dated Rat Tat Tat number. Not only were the sets and costumes awful but also you could not tell who Fanny was supposed to be and bagels hanging around her waist?? The whole thing seemed inadvertently anti–Semitic. The house on Long Island looked cheap (this is the home a great star?) and the Henry Street number has some colored lights inside the Soviet monstrosity. The train station had a clock. Just a clock. You could’ve seen better sets in a college production. Were there budget limitations or is David Zinn just a limited designer
The supporting cast was adequate . RR was fine but Nicky Arnstein is always a thankless role. Jane Lynch looked like she was playing Nettie Fowler in Carousel. Who in the hell thought that casting Jane Lynch as a turn of the century Jewish mother was a good idea?. When the stand out in the supporting cast is the woman playing Mrs. Strakosh, you’re in big trouble.
I loved Jared Grimes as Eddie but the blind casting I think ran into narrative difficulties which I won’t go into here. An example of the uninspired direction was The Music that Makes Me Dance sequence. In the original, Fanny is in her dressing room waiting for Nick to return, from prison right before she to appear on stage to her big torch song . She sings the introduction (I add 2 and 2, the most simple addition) ) backstage. As the song moves into the body ( I know he’s around) ., Fanny steps out of her dressing gown and moves onstage revealing a glittering black outfit as an off stage voices announces Ladies and gentlemen Florenz Ziegfeld proudly presents Fanny Brice It’s coup de theatre of the first order One that I remember to this day. In this production she just sings it in her dressing room to not much effect. (just another ballad)
I would like to see Julie do this role or another musical theater classic in a firs rate production and then I think then we might see the making of a star

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