Jennifer Poliskie & Justin Moore in Funny Girl.
Music by Jule Styne, Lyrics by Bob Merrill,
Book by Isobel Lennart.
Directed by Cyndi Powell-Skellie
Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire contents are copyright © 2014, Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
For theater lovers in the Louisville area, there is a discovery to be made just one county away. The Shelby County Community Theater has been running season in and season out for decades, but I daresay a lot of the Louisville theater community is unfamiliar with them, and that’s a shame. Community theater in the purest sense of the term, the SCCT frequently manages to get quality entertainment out of first time (sometimes only-time) performers and tech personnel, and when successful, it really rewards both audience and performer on so many levels.
Case in point, their current production of the 1964 Broadway musical Funny Girl. This retelling of the rise to fame of legendary Broadway, film, and comedy star Fanny Brice benefits from enthusiastic performances by its mix of experienced and new performers, and an absolutely stellar performance by its leading lady. The absolute joy in what they’re doing that radiates from this cast easily glosses over whatever shortcomings the production as a whole might have. It’s simply a pleasure to behold.
Jennifer Poliskie, never short on talent, seems to have been born to play Fanny Brice. Her vocals are amazing, and never hits a false note with the comic or dramatic turns of her character’s arc. I was especially impressed that she resisted the urge to imitate Barbra Streisand (who originated the role on Broadway and reprised it in the 1968 film version). She even gives her own spin on the iconic “Hello, Gorgeous” line: an absolutely stunning performance.
Unfortunately, she is so good in the role that it really makes her costar, Justin Moore (as the love of Fanny’s life Nicky Arnstein), pale in comparison. He doesn’t quite have the voice for the character’s songs, and he’s not as strong an actor as Poliskie. I think he would have been much better suited for one of the colorful supporting roles, but not as a leading man paired with a talent like hers.
Speaking of the supporting roles, the talent there is amazing too. As Eddie, the dancer pining unrequitedly for Fanny’s affections, Owen Kresse is in fine form both in voice and choreography, definitely one of the best performers in the cast. His mother, Candace Kresse, also gets some great moments as the meddlesome busybody Mrs. Strakosh, and Michael McCollum makes a very convincing Florenz Ziegfeld. Corey Hall, Alex Hamilton, Rick Reinle, Jake Waford, and Elizabeth Slucher also get some great moments playing multiple roles. And as Fannie’s mother, Jeanette Hicks is simply a joy to watch.
Cyndi Powell-Skellie has directed with a light touch for such a broad musical, and it works, keeping the action moving and eliciting some truly great performances for the most part. Larry Chaney’s set design, representing a Vaudeville theater, is very effective in setting the mood, and is complemented nicely by Phil Hoagland’s lighting design.
Treat yourself to a fun night at the theater, it’s only a short 30-minute drive down 64; like most productions at SCCT, it’s definitely worth the trip.
Starring Aria Bailey, Leigh Ann Barcellona, Joseph Collum, Annie Davis, Elisa Freeman, Corey Hall, Alex Hamilton, Jeanette Hicks, Candace Kresse, Owen Kresse, Michael McCollum, Justin Moore, Sheena Odenweller, Janet Parsons, Jon Peed, Jennifer Poliskie, Jennifer Pusateri, Rick Reinle, Elizabeth Slucher, Jake Waford, Erin Warford, Haley White, and Christopher Williams.
August 8, 9, 15 & 16 at 7:30 p.m.
August 10 & 17 at 2:30 p.m.
Shelby County Community Theatre
801 Main Street
Shelbyville, KY 40059
For reservations call 502-633-0242