At the Tuesday evening (Feb. 6) premiere of “Funny Girl's” one-week run at the Wharton Center, the audience leapt to its feet as lead actress Katerina McCrimmon closed the show by belting out the musical's titular number. The entire evening was a celebration of her voice — the power, control and range she brought to the songs, as well as her speaking voice, including the memorable and hilarious things her character said. Frankly, I was overcome by the power of McCrimmon’s cords. She stood on stage for more than two hours and delivered, again and again, one of the most incredible vocal performances I’ve ever heard. I can safely say I was awestruck, and I remain starstruck. And that was only night one.
The show’s script is still a riot. It was written in the early 1960s about the life of actress and comedian Fanny Brice, whose star began to rise during the 1920s. The gags are great, and the dialogue is filled with witty one-liners and meta moments that break the fourth wall and invite audience participation. The themes of romance, patriarchy and the impossibility of being a driven, smart, hardworking and hilarious woman of any era remain evergreen.
The show tackles its modern subject matter in the style of a big, showstopping musical inspired by the vaudeville acts of the '20s and the grandeur of the Ziegfeld Follies. Constant set and costume changes, big lights and even bigger HATS transport you to a magical otherworld while still sending it up. Life can be beautiful, and you can call out how obsessed we are with female beauty at the cost of female success. It's one of the most unique musicals I’ve ever seen, and I recommend it both for the true believers and the musical-theater curious.
As we were leaving the show, my companion remarked smartly, “You'd never see this story in reverse: A woman leaves her husband because she can’t stand being overshadowed by his achievements.”
I laughed reflexively. After a moment, I decided to keep laughing.
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