Isobel Lennart wrote both the book and the screenplay for the musical, which was adapted for film in 1968. The original funny girl, Barbra Streisand, landed herself an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her performance as Fanny Brice. So now that you have the fast facts, let’s talk about the Funny Girl production currently running at the Fugard in Cape Town…
The play is about people who work in the theatre, so throughout the dialogue the term “opening night” is often used as a metaphor for being on the brink of great success. I can honestly say, last night truly was opening night for the entire cast and crew.
If you rarely fork out cash for theatre tickets, let reputation be your guide. Director Matthew Wild once again teamed up with Musical Director Charl-Johan Lingenfelder and Choreographer Louisa Talbot, to recreate the dream team that brought Fugard audiences The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Cabaret, and West Side Story. A little voice in the back of your head should by now be telling you that this is a good idea.
Just like the real Fanny Brice, Ashleigh Harvey has excellent comic timing and a massive set of musical pipes hidden in her tiny frame. Kate Normington had the cast in stitches with her interpretation of Fanny’s mother, Rose Brice. She was endearing and hilarious. Clyde Berning’s Nicky Arnstein was almost not oily enough to convince me he’s a professional gambler… But then I realized how good he is at bluffing. Berning created a lovely layered character, who ended up breaking more hearts than just Fanny Brice’s on opening night.
The more seasoned supporting cast includes Diane Wilson, Grant Towers, Michèle Maxwell, Mike Huff, Cameron Botha and Lucy Tops. The newer faces (and dancing feet) of Sven-Eric Müller, Jenna Robinson-Child, Jenna Robinson-Child, Michèle la Trobe, Sibusiso Mxosana, Ambre Chanel Fulton, Daniel Fisher, Tamryn van Houten and Tyla Nurden complete the outstanding line up.
My only criticism was that most of the cast, with the exception of the Brice ladies, had not quite mastered their Brooklyn accents by the time the curtain rose. However, the occasional emphaaaasis on the wrong sylaaaable was easy to forgive. The singing, the dancing and the jokes were all delightful.
It was humbling to see that even an exceptional cast sometimes needs to overcome opening night jitters. It took about three musical numbers for every one on stage to relax. After that, all the actors seamed to quickly grow into their parts, becoming more comfortable and confident as the evening progressed. By the end of the first half no one was having their parade rained on. Funny Girl‘s entire cast had stolen my heart!
Performances at the Fugard run Tuesday through Saturday at 8pm. There is also a Saturday matinee at 4pm, if you want to kidnap your nan from the old folks home for a treat. Ticket prices range from R130 to R350. Don’t worry if you can only afford the cheap seats, the entire cast sings so well, and the sound is so excellently managed, you won’t care if occasionally you can’t see everyone’s feet over the side of the balcony. (Three guesses where I sat.)
Book at Computicket or the Fugard’s box office on 021 461 4554.