Sunday afternoon my friends and I went to our final Bloomington Civic Theatre performance for this season, Funny Girl. What an afternoon of entertainment that was. I loved every minute of it -- the music, costumes, sets, and actors. Such energy and passion!
The following is the review from The Star Tribune:
Lush staging of 'Funny Girl' is full of passion, flair
The musical "Funny Girl" made a star of Barbra Streisand. The role of Ziegfeld star Fanny Brice, her rise to stardom and romantic travails, was Streisand's first Broadway lead and she won an Oscar for the movie. Maybe it's because the role has been so associated with her that it is very rarely done. I've waited years to see it on stage, and Bloomington Civic Theatre's production was well worth the wait.
Kersten Rodau's Fanny Brice is only one reason to see "Funny Girl," but it's a compelling one. When she sings, "I'm the Greatest Star," you believe it. She doesn't even hint at doing a Streisand impersonation, making the role totally and completely her own. "People" is heartbreaking, and "Don't Rain on My Parade" shakes the rafters. Her considerable gifts as a comedienne are also on display.
Classic musicals are the kind of show that John Command does best -- and this production ranks among the top shows he has ever done, staged with even more than his usual amount of passion, style and flair. Music director Anita Ruth brings her own pizzazz to the proceedings. And it is a rare treat to hear the lush sound of a 24-piece orchestra.
Robin McIntyre recaptures the bygone showbiz era in his set, creating an amazing number of elaborate drops behind the proscenium, giving the show a rich period feel. Ed Gleeman's costumes prove that he knows how to dress a star, creating literally dozens of gowns for Brice. His outfits for the Follies numbers are extravaganzas.
Kevin Leines, as gambler Nick Arnstein, for whom Fanny falls, has a great voice, but tends to melt into the background when next to Rodau. That is, in part, the fault of the script, where his role is underwritten. Denise Tabet, as Mrs. Brice, Fanny's mother, pulls out all the stops, delivering a real borscht-belt comic tour de force, especially when exhorted to "Find Yourself a Man." Ryan Gustafson makes a great deal of the thankless role of Eddie, Fanny's friend and supporter.
The second act is not as strong as the first, which is the problem with the story, not the production. At the end of Act One, Fanny achieves her happily-ever-after with Nick and in Act Two it all unravels. The book also shows its age with some lines about Fanny being responsible for her husband's fall that feel incredibly sexist. But between Rodau and Command, this is truly a production for the ages.
William Randall Beard is a Minneapolis writer.