While some of the songs might be familiar tunes, the Funny Girl National Tour is an opportunity to contemplate more than just a melody. As the classic musical tours nationally for the first time, audiences discover the story which relates on many levels. A successful woman still needs people, but those people might not always want to be cast in the shadow of her spotlight.
As the revival and the Funny Girl National Tour welcome a new audience to hear the tale of Fanny Price and her rise to fame, the notion of the less-than-pristine beauty leveraging her comedic talents is a well-known trope. What sets this musical apart from the other tales are the performances from the talented ensemble which seamlessly swing from jubilant to introspective with ease. Those moments make the fictional tale a great slice of reality. People might not burst into song or tap out their feelings, but they understand the emotional rollercoaster of balancing love, life, and career.
For the Funny Girl National Tour, Katerina McCrimmon plays Fanny Brice. While it is abundantly clear that McCrimmon can belt out a show tune, it is her quiet moments that connect her with the audience. Never trying to mimic other popular performers who have taken on the role, McCrimmon has a subtle quality at the moment that makes her endearing.
Fanny’s desire to be successful yet have the coveted role of wife and mother might be left unfulfilled, but it is not for lack of trying. To be clear, the joke might not be on her, but she embraces the moments where the audience should laugh at her. More importantly, her stature makes them applaud the moments when she gains her confidence and basks in the spotlight. McCrimmon goes from one emotion to another even within a single song. It is a masterful performance in the iconic role.
While the Fanny character might have a roller coaster of emotions, it is Mrs. Brice, played by Barbara Tirrell, who is the glue to the story. Although not the typical stage mother, her performance helps the audience get through the difficult moments with a spark of laughter. At the same time, her poignant advice is rooted in years of experience.
When Mrs. Brice and Eddie Ryan (played by Izaiah Montaque Harris) sing “Who Taught Her Everything She Knows,” the people behind the star get their moment to shine. Everyone is mesmerized by Harris’ rhymical tap dancing. The quick-footed performer has the audience cheering. The duet is a highlight of the show.
Although Fanny Brice’s story would not be complete without the Follies, it is her relationship with Nick Arstein (played by Stephen Mark Lucas) that has the audience empathizing with the lead character. Lucas walks the delicate line of the playboy that everyone wants by their side but who is also unworthy of Fanny’s loyalty. The bad boy plot is well known, but Lucas keeps the portrayal fresh.
Through it all, the ensemble weaves their way in and out of the story. They serve as a reminder that Fanny might be the headliner on the billboard, but she would not be in that position without the talented cast behind her.
Overall, Funny Girl National Tour has a talented, engaging ensemble that invites the audience to experience the happiness and sadness of this well-known story. From tapping their toes for the upbeat numbers to resisting the urge to hum to the big show numbers, the evening is a highly enjoyable night of theater.
Funny Girl National Tour is currently playing at Dr Phillips Center in Orlando. Additional tour dates include Naples, Florida, Nashville, Tennessee, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.