PC brings Fanny Brice back to life
WOWING AUDIENCES: Anastadis as Brice.
The musical Funny Girl wasn’t made for just Barbra Streisand. This tale of a flamboyant, never-say-die entertainer is also about enthusiastic young performers like Nancy Anastadis, who is wowing audiences as Fanny Brice in a Providence College theater production through April 13.
As Streisand made familiar, Brice was a brash comedienne and singer in the vaudeville era. A Jewish girl from Brooklyn, she got ahead the old-fashioned way, with talent rather than beauty and blond curls. Brice had, as the expression goes, a great face for radio, and in fact became enormously popular using a funny voice on The Baby Snooks Show.
But this musical charts her discovery by impresario Florenz Ziegfeld and her continuing success — with her career, but notably not her love life. The 1964 Broadway show had music by Jule Stein, lyrics by Bob Merrill, and book by Isobel Lennart. Streisand reprised the role four years later in the film version.
The PC production is directed by Mary G. Farrell, with musical director David Harper conducting the student orchestra. The scenic design by Michael Micucci has the stage bordered with photographs of Brice against yellowed newspapers, and costume design by David Costa-Carbal doesn’t neglect the colorful opportunities of dresses and gowns of the period, especially with imaginative hats for the ladies and a feathered evening coat for Brice. Lighting design is by Katherine C. Abernathy.
As Fanny, Anastadis has the personality and confidence, and the sense of humor, to convey the spunky comic with unforced ease. As a bonus, her voice is a great pleasure in slowly paced songs such as “People” as well as the more numerous uptempo numbers, like “I’m the Greatest Star.” With the Act One curtain-closer “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” which contains both elements, Anastadis knocks our socks off, so that we really need an intermission to find them.
She has more than adequate vocal help, especially with Kevin Black as Eddie Ryan, a choreographer and friend who wistfully wants to be more to her. Eddie gets Brice an audition with Mr. Ziegfeld (Craig Schutz), whose Ziegfeld Follies was synonymous with chorus line vaudeville. Her spunky self-assurance (“You think beautiful girls are going to be in style forever?”) wins him over.
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