Village Theatre digs deep into its bag of tricks for its latest musical
May 20, 2014
By Peter Clark
No cloud rains on Village Theatre’s latest parade.
In its last production of the 2014-2015 season, the regional theater brings “Funny Girl” to the stage in all its roaring glory. Recounting the life of vaudeville and Broadway star Fanny Brice, the 1964 musical (music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill and book by Isobel Lennart) takes the audience on a whirlwind, rags-to-riches journey of Brice’s life.
The classic story, with Brice famously portrayed by Barbra Streisand on stage and screen, is well-known and I should note immediately that I find it lackluster. Struggling, gutsy girl meets boy. Gutsy girl struggles less, and then weds boy. Boy turns rotten. Girl stays gutsy.
“Funny Girl” chooses to tell its tale through performances rather than story. In the wrong hands, this yarn could prove threadbare. However, Village Theatre’s deft cast, led by Sarah Rose Davis, weaves this web in a marvelous fashion.
Speaking of marvelous fashion, the production looked stunning. It took 187 costumes to pull together the decades across which this story spans and all of them looked fantastic. The dynamic sets gave the stage depth, making the smaller theater seem about three times larger.
All of the costumes and backgrounds would go to waste without talent filling them, so Director Steve Tomkins filled them to the brim. From the soulful numbers about human relations to the comedic send-ups of wartime hijinks, the cast and ensemble create a nonstop, dazzling display. The singing and dancing honor the spirit of “Funny Girl” with precision, emotion and a heaping helping of pizzazz.
Throughout much of the show, a spotlight sits on Davis, and she earned every second of the attention. Yes, she delivered a strong, powerful vocal performance. Yes, she danced her numbers with exact timing. However, the most striking thing Davis brings to the role lies in her grace and the easy humor she adds to every interaction.
She exudes character and embodies the charm that must have existed in Brice herself. Davis looked at home both while being carried around the room and while dressed as a bumbling Private Schwartz.
Such a magnetic star blurred the talent of the surrounding cast, though some did stand out. I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of Brice’s mother by Bobbi Kotula and Eddie Ryan by John David Scott.
Unfortunately, the musical’s straight-man love interest, Logan Benedict’s Nick Arnstein, fell fairly flat around Davis’ electricity.
Regardless, “Funny Girl” is Davis’ show and she rightly owned it.
If you go
- Francis Gaudette Theatre
- 303 Front St. N.
- May 15 to July 6
- Get tickets and times at www.villagetheatre.org.