After three seasons and 18 critically acclaimed shows, it did not surprise me that 3D Theatricals would take on the challenge of mounting the classic Funny Girl and do it with the class and panache this musical theater gem rightly deserves. Quite a testimonial to begin this review, but truth be told, this production company that is the triple threat of T.J., Gretchen and Daniel Dawson (and the bonus member, T.J.’s wife, Jeanette) keeps delivering one terrific performance after another, and they are certainly not resting on their laurels, as they continue to diversify and grow.
Their summer production of Shrek The Musical, starring oldest brother T.J. as the loveable green ogre himself was, in some opinions, better than the Broadway production (I saw it in New York in 2009, and 3D’s version was terrific – they nailed it!). This show was an important milestone for them, as not only were they mounting the regional premiere of the show, they were launching a new business – set and costume design. Add to that, they just closed escrow on their own rehearsal space in Anaheim, so they can accommodate all those sets and costumes and rehearse in between Fullerton and Redondo, presently their two theatrical homes.
Funny Girl is another show the Dawsons selected to build from the ground up, designing the sets and costumes with the intention to rent them out, giving other production companies the ability to produce this rare revival. After the Los Angeles Ahmanson slated production was put on indefinite hold late in 2011, 3D Theatricals jumped on it, and began planning and searching for their Fanny Brice.
Fanny Brice was a significant character in the history of American theater, and a California transplant, coming to Hollywood to film and radio in the '30s and '40s. Her two children were also ever-present in SoCal’s art and culture scene; son, William Brice established himself as a prolific Los Angeles artist and UCLA professor, while oldest daughter Frances Stark, married to Hollywood film producer Ray Stark, was an art collector and philanthropist (next time you are at The Getty, look for the Stark sculpture garden). Husband Stark optioned Fanny’s story and produced both the Broadway and film production of Funny Girl, making this story a Tony-nominated and Oscar-winning family legacy.
The role of vaudevillian comedienne Fanny Brice launched Barbra Streisand’s career back in 1964, and now that the show is pushing 50, it still requires a powerhouse to headline this classic. Enter Nicole Parker, a nice Irvine, California girl, six-year veteran of Fox’s MADtv and a Wicked alum. With her Elphaba-belting credibility and her comedic background, Parker was a fantastic choice. Not only can this woman sing (she gives Babs a run for her money), she is authentically funny and a terrific physical comedienne. She truly is “The Greatest Star” of this revival show and she needs to be – this role is a marathon for any actress.
Her hunky-yet-flawed love interest, gambler Nicky Arnstein, is played skillfully by the talented Aussie actor Josh Adamson, whose Nicky has a slight British accent and the magnetism and charm that naturally steals Fanny’s heart. Veteran actress Jean Kaufman delights us with her portrayal of Fanny’s mother, Rosei Brice, Venny Carranza plays the loveable Eddie, Fanny’s tap-dancing Follies friend, and Gregory North offers a staunch-yet-sensitive Florenz Ziegfeld.
Mama Brice is given some great bits with a sidekick poker-playing trio at home on Henry Street: Mrs. Meeker, Mrs. O’Malley and Mrs. Strakosh, played by Carol Kline, Jill Van Velzer and Helen Geller, respectively. Fanny’s girl Friday, Emma, is played by Micaela Martinez, Stage Manager John is played by Christopher Roque, Tom Keeney is played by Jamie Snyder and the Ziegfield Tenor is sung beautifully by Erik McEwen.
And no show would be complete without a powerful ensemble! Nick Adorno, Jules Chavarria, Ryan Chlanda, Carrie Hacker, Nicole Manly, Sarah Meals, Erik McEwen, Leslie Miller, Nathan Mohebbi, Ramone Owens, Dylan Pass, Robert Ramirez, Laura Rensing, Amber Sky-Skipps, Allyson Spiegelman, Matthew Thurmond, and Tory Trowbridge with Dance Captain Venny Carranza.
Directed by Los Angeles-based Director Michael Matthews, his Funny Girl offers some modern and creative staging and coupled with Kami Seymour’s dynamic choreography and solid cast, let’s just say, this 50-year-old gal has had some work done and is looking really freshened up. Musically directed skillfully by Gerald Sternbach, the orchestra played hit after hit from this show – “I’m the Greatest Star,” “People” and of course, the show-stopping belting number, “Don’t Rain On My Parade.”
Scenic Designer Stephen Gifford did a brilliant job giving us a glimpse of Brice’s hometown roots on Henry Street, as well as her vaudevillian stage and dressing room and her grand Long Island estate. Many of Cheryl Sheldon’s costumes designed for this show were period beauties, from the Brice women’s formal gowns to the vaudeville babies’ top-heavy headpieces. Sound design was by 3D favorite Julie Ferrin and lighting again skillfully executed by Jean-Yves Tessier. More behind-the-scenes heroes: on wigs, Cliff and Kat Senior; props, Gretchen Morales and Melanie Cavaness; technical direction by Jene Roach; and stage manager for this production is Lisa Palmire.
3D Theatricals' updated and fresh version of Funny Girl has universal appeal – it is not just for musical theater aficionados or Streisand fans. It is a classic American musical about a multi-layered performer and woman in love. With a terrific and memorable Styne and Merrill score, a rising star at the helm in Nicole Parker, skillful direction and choreography, this show will foster a new generation of admirers half a century since its Broadway premiere.
Through September 22
Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 21, 2 p.m.
Sunday, 2 p.m.
210 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton
Friday, 8 p.m.
Saturday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday, 2 p.m.
Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center
1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach