‘Funny Girl’ returns to Village Theatre 20 years later
May 13, 2014
By Peter Clark
The May 15 return of “Funny Girl” to Village Theatre brings milestones behind the scenes.
Issaquah’s regional professional theater has kept much of the same talent since 1993, the last time it put on the musical featuring the life and career of a Broadway star set in the early 20th century.
But those people at the helm of the lavishly involved show bring decades more experience to this year’s production. Both the costume designer and the master scenic artist worked on the show 20 years ago, and for everything that has stayed the same, they have seen many things change.
“Funny Girl” tells the story of Fanny Brice and her history in New York from a life in vaudeville to waiting for her husband’s return from World War I. Though much of the show is told through song, “Funny Girl” relies a great deal on its many costumes — 187 to be exact.
Costume designer Karen Ann Ledger delights in the hurdles presented by the sheer number of pieces in which to dress the cast, although she does admit it is a tiring process.
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“I love the challenge,” she said, recognizing at the end of the day, it is still costume design. “How bad could it be?”
Though the process requires an enormous amount of time to plan and create, she enjoys investigating the past for ideas that fit the present.
“The challenge of the show is it is set in a time period that is not onstage very often,” Ledger said.
The costume shop must create a great deal of the pieces from scratch, and that requires a great deal of research.
“People aren’t that terribly familiar with how these pieces are put together,” she added. “We do rent what we can.”
Even if the theater finds clothing, she said they still have to figure out how to make it relevant to the modern eye.
“What was attractive in the 1910s was really not attractive to our eye,” Ledger said. “The waistlines were not tight, bosoms were not defined. We have to make a shape that is attractive to our eye.”
Her work on the costumes began about a year ago, and between her other work, she found the time to research and begin design. The costume shop worked on last-minute alterations and finishing the final piece in the run-up to opening night.
“This ‘Funny Girl’ is in no way like the ‘Funny Girl’ I did all those years ago,” Ledger said, citing the experience those years bring. “You change your perspective. It’s the same level of focus, it’s just a different intensity.”
She found excitement in bringing the extra years to inform how the show would look.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve done this show,” she said. “Everything has evolved. Those thoughts I used to make the last ‘Funny Girl’ aren’t even in existence anymore.”
The last show of the 2014-2015 season also marks the 100th production for the master scenic artist, Julia Franz.
“This show is huge,” she said. “I take renderings and interpret what they mean in the world of paint. There’s a lot of painting.”
With three stenciled wall papers, three murals and a great deal more, Franz said there is still plenty to do as opening night approaches.
Luckily, the theater’s last show, “The Tutor,” did not require a great deal of set work, so the technical production of “Funny Girl” began months ago.
“We started to work on ‘Funny Girl’ at the same time as ‘The Tutor,’” she said. “It’s just so detailed.”
With 20 years working for Village Theatre, Franz has found enjoyment in the demanding effort.
“It’s hard work, but it’s hard fun work,” she said.