Book by Isobel Lennart
Music by Jule Styne, Lyrics by Bob Merrill
Directed by John Leffert
Review by Brian Kennedy
Entire contents copyright © 2017 by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved
With technical issues and too few memorable characters, Centerstage’s Funny Girl was simply a so-so affair.
Funny Girl is a musical biography of Fanny Brice, a Broadway star in the early 20th Century. Her tale is told from her years struggling to make it in show business, up to and including her marriage to gambler Nick Arnstein. Along the way, she has plenty of friends and family to help her keep going or, in some cases, let her boss them around.
There are plenty of opportunities for wonderful acting and meaningful musical performances. The latter is especially true for the company. For example, when performing the fun “Henry Street”, they clearly enjoy performing the song.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Poliskie, as the aforementioned Fanny, delivers a sweet rendition of “People” that is full of heartfelt longing. She also gives the audience goose bumps with the show stopping number, “My Man.”
The last, but certainly the best, singing performance came during the, “His Love Makes Me Beautiful”, sequence. The Ziegfeld Tenor, played by Isaiah Hein, was attention grabbing from the first powerful, operatic note. His voice covered multiple octaves, including in falsetto, with ease and a dynamic that was sorely missing from most of the rest of the cast. Even though Hein’s role, at least in that character, was just one scene, one wishes the Tenor could have had a couple more solo lines.
In terms of acting, Glenna Godsey, as Mrs. Brice, Fanny’s mother, was without a doubt the highlight of the show. With most of the one-liners, Mrs. Brice required plenty of wit and charm. Thankfully, Godsey had that and more, drawing the biggest laughs of the night in response. She was simply a joy to watch.
Frank Goodloe’s Eddie Ryan character was a close second. Goodloe showed superb chemistry when working with Godsey, especially in the charming “Who Taught Her Everything,” or as a friend and/or dance teacher to Poliskie’s character.
Despite the aforementioned high points, several issues marred the rest of the show. This being opening night, it’s understandable if there were a few glitches in sound. However, when the mics either cut out or don’t come on during multiple songs, including virtually the entire company portion of “Rat-a-Tat-Tat,” it becomes difficult to hear. It also exposes that quite a few cast members had problems with projecting to the back of the room. Projection problems were abundant through the entire play for the cast, but this was when it was most evident.
The relationship between Fanny and Nick Arnstein was also an issue. Rusty Henle was stiff and had little emotion as Nick, and he and Poliskie’s multiple scenes together felt forced and lacking chemistry. Poliskie, on the other hand, had too much energy coming out of the gate, and the hyperactivity continued all the way into “People” late in the first act.
Save for Ms. Poliskie, the entire cast seemed to have issues keeping up the energy. This was apparent in the aforementioned “Rat-A-Tat-Tat”. Also, Funny Girl’s signature song, “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” needed more energy from all involved. It looked and sounded like everyone was just going through the motions, making the iconic number one of the least memorable songs in this production.
Perhaps the aforementioned issues were due to opening night jitters. Let’s hope so because Centerstage has a show with potential on its hands. What that potential turns into is anyone’s guess.
January 26, 28, February 2, 4, 6, 9, & 11 @ 7:30 pm
January 29, February 5, & 12 @ 2 pm
Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 on Saturday night and Sunday matinees, $2 “at the door” charge
Jewish Community Center
3600 Dutchman’s Lane
Louisville, Kentucky 40205
Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for Louisville.com and Examiner.com from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.