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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Chase

Funny Girl Shines Bright with Katerina McCrimmon as Ziegfeld's Greatest Star

Review by ANTHONY CHASE

 


A woman singing
Katerina McCrimmon as Fanny Brice

The 2022 Broadway revival of Funny Girl that starred Beanie Feldstein, then her alternate, Julie Benko, then Lea Michele, is out on the road and has set up shop at Shea’s through this weekend.  In New York, I saw Feldstein, who gave an endearing but not exactly incandescent performance in a production that seemed kind of clunky.  Jane Lynch played Fanny’s mother, making every effort to generate some momentum for the show with a performance that seemed to be in another show entirely.  

 

When Ms. Feldstein started missing performances – a lot – Ms. Benko filled in and started to get more and more rapturous attention.  Then, as rumors began to surface that Ms. Michele was waiting in the wings, Feldstein bowed out entirely.  Feldstein and Lynch were replaced by Michele and Tovah Feldshuh. The revamped show got glowing notices and the box office rebounded.

 

A national tour seemed like a no-brainer, but who would play Fanny Brice? Benko had landed a prominent role on Broadway in Barry Manilow’s Harmony, so she was out. With no pressure to hire a star, the producers went for talent.  Enter an irrepressible Latin-Scottish dynamo from Miami, Katerina McCrimmon. 

 

McCrimmon is both endearing and incandescent as she navigates recognizable bits of comedy and soaring tunes like “I’m the Greatest Star,” “The Music That Makes Me Dance,” and “People,” made familiar to musical theater lovers everywhere by Barbra Streisand. The opening night audience at Shea’s began to cheer McCrimmon’s numbers before she had finished them, and her solo curtain call at the conclusion of the evening, greeted with unbridled adoration by the crowd, seemed absolutely deserved. 

 

The show, with a revised set design, is not clunky and seems made to order for the 16,000 Shea’s Broadway series subscribers who like their songs belted, their lyrics witty, and their endings, if not happy, at least uplifting.  A pre-show announcement promises that we will be transported to musical theater heaven.  Funny Girl keeps this promise. 

 


a happy man and woman in evening clothes
Stephen Mark Lukas as Nick Arnstein with Katerina McCrimmon as Fanny Brice

Stephen Mark Lukas, who understudied the role on Broadway, makes a first-rate Nick Arnstein.  Lukas has played all the musical theater hunk roles, Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees, Curly in Oklahoma!, Lt. Cable in South Pacific, Lancelot in Camelot, Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls.  (He probably just didn’t have enough room to list Billy Bigelow in Carousel, or Fredrik Egerman in A Little Night Music).  He is obviously a born leading man and he is fabulous here.  We fall in love with him just as quickly as Fanny does, as he gives a witty and sultry performance that (spoiler alert!) serves to make his downfall all the more heartbreaking. 

 

During the curtain call, the famously exuberant Shea’s audience tried to hold something back for the McCrimmon’s bow, but when agile and energetic Izaiah Montaque Harris, who plays Fanny’s tap-dancing buddy Eddie Ryan, came to the stage, they could resist no longer. The standing ovation began. 

 


a man tap-dancing
Izaiah Montaque Harris as Eddy Ryan

Harris taps like a finely tuned rhythm machine, has the comic timing of a Swiss watch, and has mastered the art of suffering for love-unrequited onstage.  He is terrific.

 

My disappointment at not seeing Melissa Manchester, who is out with an injury, play the role of Mrs. Brice was assuaged by the take-no-prisoners performance of brassy no-nonsense Barbara Tirrell, who was the standby for the role on Broadway. Sometimes “standby” means better than the person who got the part, but not as famous. Tirrell is the kind of terrific that makes a person fantasize seeing her in other fabulous character roles.  Now that she’s conquered Mrs. Brice, I want to see her Princess Puffer in Drood; Madame Giry in The Phantom of the Opera; Joanne in Company; Baroness Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; and Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly!.  She’s already done Miss Hannigan and Madame Morrible, but what about the Witch in Into the Woods? All that talent and magnetic stage presence should not go to waste!

 

The entire company is terrific and Funny Girl is precisely the type of show the Shea’s crowd lives for.  Katerina McCrimmon has been getting rave reviews everywhere. I’d say that this is a “Don’t walk; run!” situation.  The show leaves town after Sunday.

 


a woman accepting applause
Katerina McCrimmon as Fanny Brice

 

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