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Broadway’s ‘Funny Girl’ Revival Rains on Its Own Parade


Broadway’s ‘Funny Girl’ Revival Rains on Its Own Parade

To be clear: Many were absolutely wild for the revival of Funny Girl at the performance this critic attended. The air as the audience took its seats had that big-night Broadway fizziness to it. There was plentiful applause through the show (opening Sunday night at the August Wilson Theatre, booking to Nov. 20), and cheers for Beanie Feldstein, who plays Fanny Brice, alongside Ramin Karimloo as Nick Arnstein, Jane Lynch, who plays Fanny’s mother, and Jared Grimes, a show standout for his sparkling tap routines as Eddie, Fanny’s best buddy and romantic-partner-that-never-is. The company of dancers are, as in so many Broadway shows and especially so this season, the committed heart of the performance.

Sunday’s opening night falls on Barbra Streisand’s 80th birthday. Streisand, of course, originated the role of the ambitious, proudly down-to-earth stage diva Fanny Brice in the original 1964 Broadway production and also starred as her, opposite Omar Sharif as suave gambler Nick, in the 1968 movie.

The show, like the movie, has sumptuous costumes (by Susan Hilferty), it glitters as it should, but it also has a sense of constant strain about it, a story that freezes and never progresses, and a central couple in Fanny and Nick who are baffling rather than scintillating. It’s hard to know what we are supposed to think of them. There is a low-key, serviceable chemistry between Feldstein and Karimloo, rather than a crackling, passionate one, and a relationship that seems transactional rather than romantic from its inception.

Appositely, a bizarrely designed set houses this puzzle of a show. Two sets of stairs on either side of the stage are supposed to signify Henry Street, the neighborhood where Fanny is from, as well as the stairs of the theater where she performs. In the middle of the stage is a doom-emitting brick tower, which must be another building on Henry Street but instead looks like it may hide machine gun snipers. The back of this structure is a hollowed-out interior serving as interchangeable locations, like a fancy restaurant or home. Once that setting is used up, it’s back to facing the…

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