Opening Nights: Funny Girl

Funny Girl

Village Theatre, 303 Front St. N. (Issaquah), 425-392-2202, $30–$65. Runs Wed.–Sun. through July 6. (Moves to Everett July 11–Aug. 3.)

When the musical Funny Girl was being cast for its 1964 Broadway premiere, producer Ray Stark searched far and wide for an actress capable of playing the legendary stage performer Fanny Brice (1891–1951), whose talent famously surpassed her looks. He chose Barbra Streisand, and a new star was born, confident in her unconventional beauty.

In the starring role of this revival, directed by Steve Tomkins, Sarah Rose Davis has to be exhaustively gawked up and geeked out by her costumers to match the song “If a Girl Isn’t Pretty.” But by the time the show reaches “I’m the Greatest Star,” Davis owns the part, bouncing from pushy to pleading to soulful to catty, bratty, soulful, and back again. The first-time lead, raised in Bellevue, demonstrates a remarkable agility of performance and comic timing.

Good, because Funny Girl is a show that lives and dies on its Brice. Even the primary plot points of the vaudevillian’s fictionalized biography are mere vehicles to truck the audience toward the next song-and-dance spectacular. And of those there are many in this three-hour show (with intermission), with Davis wonderfully supported by the large ensemble. Everyone speaks (and sings) in honking Brooklynese—that peculiar old dialect that sounds so exaggerated we don’t care if it’s real or not.

The fleet-footed John David Scott is a standout as Eddie, the puppyish friend and man-in-waiting to Brice. His tap-dance routine early in the show is nimble and engaging; it leaves you wanting more.

However, the one dull spot in this practically Technicolor production is the central romance between Brice and the hit-and-miss gambler Nick Arnstein (Logan Benedict). Tall, dark, handsome, and mustachioed, Benedict certainly looks the part of a dashing 1920s gentleman. His deep, resonant voice would fit perfectly in one of the evening radio dramas of yore. He never falters, wavers, or stumbles in his performance. All the pieces are there, yet you never buy the love story in this Funny Girl. Davis and Benedict have talent but no chemistry—perhaps because they and everyone else are so busy rushing from one number to the next. Fortunately, it’s those musical destinations—songs by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill—that truly matter. And if it’s romance you want, you can always rent the movie with Streisand and Omar Sharif.

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