The National Tour of “Funny Girl” opened in Baltimore this week at the Hippodrome Theatre in a production that is accurately summarized by its title. As the curtain rose and the iconic stage frame came into view, adorned with curved LED lights and glistening light bulbs that perfectly matched the vibe of the show, it was clear that I was going to thoroughly enjoy my first experience with the musical “Funny Girl.”
“Funny Girl” recounts the true story of Fanny Brice, played by Katerina McCrimmon, and her decision to be the wife of a charming investor amidst her rise to fame. McCrimmon’s 1900’s New York accent was spot on, and her charisma and wit immediately won over the audience, with her larger-than-life personality that almost didn’t seem to fit within the confines of the auditorium. Her declaration of being “The Greatest Star” was undeniably accurate and her impeccable voice was a true highlight of the evening, especially when belting out the iconic “People”; which sounded eerily similar to Streisand’s.
“Funny Girl” exuded a classic musical theatre feeling that was utterly delightful, from the tap-dancing sequences to the show-stopping musical numbers that had the audience in awe. It’s shows like this that prove you don’t need to have a flying witch or huge musical number that ends with confetti cannons to get the audience enamored.
The second act of the show marked a dramatic shift in tone, transitioning from humor to a more serious note. This shift was a testament to the depth of the narrative, as a show should never remain one note. McCrimmon’s humor remained constant throughout, even as the story delved into deeper emotional territory, but she was also able to give an emotional performance that tugged at my heartstrings.
One aspect that proved challenging, though, was the passage of time. With the set and costumes remaining relatively consistent, it was often difficult to discern the characters’ ages and where we were in their story. This minor issue occasionally left me pondering the timeline, however, the powerhouse cast had me at ease no matter what.
Stephen Mark Lukas was incredibly charming (and easy on the eyes) as Nick Arnstein, Fanny’s lover throughout the years, and Eddie Ryan, portrayed by Izaiah Montaque Harris, moved the audience with his huge smile and dancing as he tapped his way through the show. Eileen T’Kaye stepped into the role of Mrs. Brice, Fanny’s mother, and delivered an exceptional performance on the cast’s opening night.
Aside from the classic “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” which received thunderous applause, the Dream Ballet was a true standout moment for me, gracefully recounting the scenes the audience already experienced with a minimal ballet that transported the audience back to the show’s beginning. This beautiful, artistic choice provided a unique perspective on the passage of time, seamlessly connecting the dots in the storyline.
In the end, the National Tour of “Funny Girl” was a captivating journey through the life of a rising star, filled with laughter, heartache, and unforgettable performances. The production’s classic charm and the McCrimmon’s undeniable star power made it a night that I will always remember.