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Song, dance and fun highlight Village Theatre's 'Funny Girl'
When "Funny Girl" was being cast for its first run, producer Ray Stark searched far and wide for an actress capable of playing the talented and unconventionally beautiful Fanny Brice. That actress would turn out to be Barbra Streisand, who delighted Stark with her performance chops and horrified his wife with her thrift shop couture, as recalled in a later interview given by composer Jule Styne.
Sarah Rose Davis, the actress who plays Brice in Village Theatre’s production of Funny Girl, has to be exhaustively gawked up and geeked out by her costumers to match the woman described in “If A Girl Isn’t Pretty.” But by the time the show reaches “I’m the Greatest Star,” Davis proves beyond a shadow of a doubt why she’s there, bouncing from pushy to pleading to soulful to catty, bratty, soulful and back again. The first-time lead demonstrates a remarkable agility of performance and comic timing.
Good, because “Funny Girl,” despite it’s large ensemble, is a show that lives and dies on its Brice. Even the primary plot points of the vaudevillian’s fictionalized biography are mere vehicles to truck the audience toward the next song-and-dance spectacular.
The supporting cast and ensemble back Davis wonderfully, filling the set pieces with the peculiar Brooklish honk that can never seem to be over exaggerated, and believably recreating the uniquely in-your-face intimacy of a New York circle of friends.
The fleet-footed John David Scott is a standout as dance director Eddie Ryan, the puppyish friend and man-in-waiting to Brice. His tap dance routine early in the show is a sight to behold and will leave you wanting more, even if you’ve never thought about tap once in your life.
The one dull spot on this practically Technicolor production arrives in the story’s driving romance between Brice and Nick Arnstein (Logan Benedict). It’s a shortcoming that’s hard to put into words. Tall, dark, handsome and mustachioed, Benedict is a dead ringer for a dashing 1920s gentleman. His deep, resonant voice is period perfect and reminiscent of classic radio drama. He never falters, wavers or stumbles in his performance. All the pieces are there, yet they come together imperfectly. Arnstein’s love affair with Brice seems to simply go through the motions of “and then, and then, and then” until the next song-and-dance number arrives.
But what a song-and-dance it will be! The journey’s all well and good but, in this show, it’s the destinations that matter.
Sarah Rose Davis as Fanny Brice and Logan Benedict as Nick Arnstein. COURTESY PHOTO, © 2014 Tracy Martin. Property of Village Theatre.