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Photos by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Not a drop of rain fell on the parade of Funny Girl in the Opera House at the Kennedy Center. This show sparkled with the glitz and glamor of bright lights, gorgeous sets, creative costumes, and a transcending live orchestra performance. Luckily, the spectacle of the show masks the outdated story but easily matches the spectacular and memorable performance of Fanny Brice, played by Katerina McCrimmon.

Based on the book by Isobel Lennert, the original score by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Bob Merrill, Funny Girl is a semi-biographical story loosely based on the life of Broadway star and comedian Fanny Brice and her rocky relationship with professional gambler Nicky Arnstein. It later opened on Broadway in 1964, with Barbra Streisand starring. Several years later, the show was revived on Broadway in 2022 with a new book by the legendary Harvey Fierstein and Lea Michele starring in the role of Fanny.

McCrimmon did more than fill Michele’s shoes on this national tour; she shines in the role of Fanny from start to finish. When the story begins, we watch Fanny struggle to make it as a chorus girl in a vaudeville theatre as she’s consistently told she isn’t “pretty enough” to be a star. With the help of her showstopping singing voice and witty banter, along with dancing tips from her friend, Eddie (Izaiah Montaque Harris), Fanny manages to steal the spotlight and shortly become a rising star, seamlessly blending her humor with her impressive stage presence. As she continues rising to the top, she captures the attention of the handsome gambler and entrepreneur Nick Arnstein (Stephen Mark Lukas). The story continues with Fanny inching closer and closer to fame and success while Nick’s luck veers in the other direction as loses the money he wins, causing Fanny to give him more money in an effort to save their plummeting relationship.

It seems like a bold move to revive a show that took place a hundred years ago, with the main character being forced to choose between her career and a man. There are moments when you can’t help but cringe as Nick sings rather outdated songs about masculinity, sometimes comparing Fanny to an accessory for him to show off to others. Maybe this revival is meant to signify either how far we’ve come in the past decade or how far we still have to go, depending on how you choose to look at it.

Whichever way it may be interpreted, it’s easy to see that McCrimmon has chosen to portray Fanny Brice boldly, beautifully, and uniquely. The minute she steps on stage, the entire show is stolen. I felt goosebumps during almost every one of her solos as she seamlessly hit every single high and low note thrown her way. In addition to a stellar singing voice, McCrimmon shows her incredible acting range by giving us a hilarious and adorably goofy version of Fanny as she trances around as a pregnant wife in one number and as a male military general in another. The audience was bursting with laughter as McCrimmon struggled to paste her mustache back onto her face during the entire “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat” number. She also breaks hearts as audiences watch the hurt appear across her face when Fanny experiences the myriad of disappointing gestures and letdowns from Nick throughout their relationship.

Katerina McCrimmon and Stephen Mark Lukas in the National Tour of Funny Girl

Right before intermission, the moment everyone had been waiting for appeared as McCrimmon sang the iconic number, “Don’t Rain On My Parade”. She delivered a showstopping performance, leaving audiences hungry for more. Just when I thought she couldn’t top that, McCrimmon blew everyone away with her “Finale” number.

After begging her husband to stay and essentially being told her success would make Nick feel superior, Fanny gives hope to the audience and herself as she sings one last song, questioning what it means to be the “funny girl”, rather than a classically beautiful woman. Right when your heart starts to ache for her, McCrimmon busts out a gorgeous “Don’t Rain On My Parade” reprise, singing, “I marched my band out, I beat my drum, I guess we didn’t make it. At least I didn’t fake it.” Watching the resilience on McCrimmon’s face is incredible as she sings one final time, “Nobody oh, nobody Is gonna rain on my parade.” She then holds her final note longer than I’ve ever heard someone hold a note in a live show, as the audience bursts into applause, unable to contain their amazement at her incredible, star-studded performance. I swear, we all wanted to jump up and yell “You go girl!” once she finished.

First National Touring Company of Funny Girl

Surrounding McCrimmon is an all-star cast and crew. Harris plays a heartwarming, talented and sincere Eddy who more than deserves more stage time as he wows the audience with his unbeatable solo tap number. Melissa Manchester shines as the funny, overbearing, but caring Mrs. Brice and her comic-relief best friends, Mrs. Meeker (Cindy Chang) and Mrs. Strakosh (Eileen T’Kaye). Lukas dazzles the audience and makes them groan at Nick Arnstein’s many mistakes, knocking out each of his numbers easily with his sultry voice. With the many scene changes from onstage to backstage to Nick’s apartment, both the well-decorated set pieces and stellar ensemble characters never fail to keep everyone in the moment and entranced throughout each scene.

With extraordinary tap numbers, bright and beautiful costumes, and a dazzling leading lady, this show has everything you need, especially if you’re searching for a lighthearted, amusing, and visually pleasing show to escape to one evening.

Final Grade: A

Funny Girl is currently running in the Opera House at the Kennedy Center to July 14, 2024. Tickets are available at the Kennedy Center box office, www.kennedy-center.org, or by calling 202-467-4600.

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