Monday, October 17, 2016

reviews - FUNNY GIRL - Arizona Broadway Theatre

Liz Fallon and Jamie Parnell
Photo by Scott Samplin

highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)
Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 13th.

"...the musical Funny Girl...catapulted Barbra Streisand to national fame...there are certain roles in certain musicals where a performer is so closely associated with the character, it’s difficult not to have those originals spring to mind; in fact, it’s impossible. And so it is with Streisand and Fanny Brice....It’s been years since a professional production of Funny Girl came to town and it couldn’t be more welcomed. ...Maybe it’s Streisand’s considerable shadow that makes reviving Funny Girl and casting the right performer as Fanny Brice such a challenge. ...Liz Fallon ...crafts her Fanny Brice her own way; she’s an unstoppable spitfire, a powerhouse force of comedic energy that will knock you aside if you dare to get in her way. ..Liz’s delivery only adds to the authentic feel that we’re watching a performer with real, vaudeville roots. ...Liz propels it towards her big finish and keeps you glued, aided by a strong performance from Jamie Parnell as Nick Arnstein, an actor whose speaking voice matches the depth and strength of his singing. ...Well cast throughout, even the large ensemble is peppered with solid support in smaller roles...Technical credits for an overall handsome looking production are high from Lizzie Hatfield’s music direction, Lottie Dixon’s glittering costumes, Amanda Gran’s countless wigs, to Dan Efros’ lighting. Director Clayton Phillips with choreographer Kurtis W. Overby use the wide ABT stage to good effect, never allowing the cast to appear dwarfed by either the space or Jim Hunter’s effective sets. ..." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"Arizona Broadway Theatre is known for presenting lush productions of classic and contemporary Broadway hits. So it's somewhat refreshing that they chose to open their 12th season with Funny Girl, which, while it's a classic show, isn't produced that often. ABT's production has superb leads, a talented ensemble, and solid creative elements, all of which add up to an excellent theatrical experience. Funny Girl portrays the rise to fame of real-life vaudeville star Fanny Brice. It's virtually impossible to write a review of this musical without talking first about Barbra Streisand, who received a Tony nomination for starring in the original Broadway production of the show and won an Oscar for headlining the film adaptation. ...Fortunately, ABT chose Liz Fallon to fill the gigantic shoes that Streisand left for any actress attempting to play Fanny. Fallon doesn't attempt any form of Streisand impersonation; instead she infuses her portrayal with the firecracker determination of this woman who knows she has the talent but is concerned that her average looks will get in the way of her success. Fallon's strong and clear voice send Fanny's songs soaring, with her delivery of each song lyric and line of dialogue expertly played and full of thought, passion and pathos. Her voice might not have the astounding clarity, control and power of Streisand's (whose does?) but her facial expressions, body language, and determination elevate the songs so each one appears to grow organically out of Fanny and the moment she is currently experiencing. Fallon's versions of "I'm the Greatest Star," "Don't Rain on My Parade," and "The Music that Makes Me Dance" are stunningly in their delivery. Nick Arnstein, the man who waltzes in and out of Fanny's life, is a somewhat one-dimensional part, yet Jamie Parnell manages to expertly show that there are many layers to this complicated, risk-taking man, especially the deep pride that lies beneath his debonair exterior. ...
Isobel Lennart's book is good in how it shows the many obstacles that Fanny faces, as well as how her family and friends are always looking out for her best interests in her relationship with Nick, and Clayton Phillips does a solid job of ensuring that the dramatic moments in the script have weight without shortchanging the many laughs....Arizona Broadway Theatre is to be commended for taking on the challenge of presenting Funny Girl. With Liz Fallon in the lead, solid work from Jamie Parnell, a talented cast, firm direction, and fine creative elements, you will most likely forget the differences between the stage and film versions and may even, for a brief moment, even forget who Barbra Streisand is.... " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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