Beanie Feldstein & Jane Lynch on Broadway – The Hollywood Reporter

Planned Broadway revivals of Funny Girl have been derailed twice in latest instances — as soon as with Lauren Ambrose within the title function when backers pulled out, involved about her bankability and various costly traditional musical remounts that had underperformed; once more when Ryan Murphy halted early talks to supply the present with Lea Michele after she unofficially auditioned for it on Glee. The 1964 Fanny Brice bio-musical is lastly again virtually 60 years after it first premiered, with a perky and interesting Beanie Feldstein within the lead. Still, there’s no escaping the indelible imprint of unique star Barbra Streisand.

With a tuneful if uneven rating by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill and an unsatisfying guide by Isobel Lennart, the present had a troubled historical past en path to Broadway; luminaries like Stephen Sondheim, David Merrick, Bob Fosse and Jerome Robbins all stepped away from the manufacturing at numerous factors in its improvement. The latter ultimately returned and took a supervisory credit score, inflicting chagrined director Garson Kanin to exit.

That bumpy street was forgotten, nonetheless, when the present opened to triumphant critiques and a three-year run, crowning a sensational new Broadway star in Streisand. Her irrefutable possession of the function was cemented much more 4 years later in William Wyler’s top-notch movie model, which additional tailor-made the present as a star car by excising most of the weaker numbers and stitching in extra Streisand showstoppers. That legacy is rather a lot to reside as much as, for any performer.

Feldstein has emerged as an irresistible display presence in movies like Booksmart and Lady Bird, and he or she was a delight within the supporting function of Minnie Fay in 2017’s blockbuster Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly! with Bette Midler. But she has a stunning, gentle singing voice in an element that always requires big-belt energy, and he or she reads girlish, by no means fairly promoting the consuming starvation that propels Fanny to stardom within the early-Nineteen Twenties Ziegfeld Follies. Feldstein leans arduous on the comedy with huge attraction, however she struggles to find the uncooked vulnerability of Fanny in later years, as her marriage to inveterate gambler Nick Arnstein (Ramin Karimloo) falls aside.

The revival’s shortcomings on no account relaxation completely on Feldstein’s shoulders. Neither director Michael Mayer nor script physician Harvey Fierstein has solved the issues of the creaky guide, which may’t construct Fanny’s eager for offstage romantic success to match her skilled success — and her eventual showbiz survivor resilience — into a strong by way of line. The present feels patchy and episodic and it wants a knockout, roof-raising result in paper over the cracks.

There’s additionally the difficulty of its dated sexual politics, with Nick’s emasculation attributable to his string of failed ventures whereas Fanny skips from success to success, out-earning her husband and feeding his humiliation. Karimloo is a gifted performer with wealthy tenor vocals; he cuts a dashing determine even when he’s not a pure dancer. But an excessive amount of of the central relationship’s decline is marked by subpar songs that really feel like useless filler. And at shut to 3 hours, this sluggish manufacturing wants no padding, even when it improves on the extra skeletal staging that Mayer and Fierstein test-drove in London, with Sheridan Smith receiving raves within the lead.

Production designer David Zinn and costumer Susan Hilferty have enjoyable with the Ziegfeld interludes, although Mayer borrows from one other Follies — Sondheim and James Goldman’s much more sturdy 1971 musical — by having the ghosts of Fanny’s previous stalk the stage at numerous factors. But manufacturing numbers like “His Love Makes Me Beautiful,” a ridiculous American bridal pageant of which Fanny makes a comic book mockery, showcase Feldstein at her finest.

Jane Lynch is amusing as Fanny’s seen-it-all Brooklyn saloon-keeper mom, towering over Feldstein and kibitzing together with her gossipy Henry Street poker-game friends, Mrs. Strakosh (Toni DiBuono) and Mrs. Meeker (Debra Cardona). There’s some delicate messaging about physique positivity in Mrs. Brice’s assist of her daughter when her associates insist that solely standard beauties could make it on the stage in “If a Girl Isn’t Pretty.” Feldstein is fairly, however she performs up the odd-duck shtick to pleasing impact that works for the character and her bodily comedy expertise are plain.

Mayer and Fierstein compound the second-act weaknesses by shifting “Who Taught Her Everything She Knows?” from its unique placement a lot earlier within the present to some extent the place it’s only one extra distraction from the floundering Fanny-Nick relationship. The track is carried out by Mrs. Brice and Fanny’s longtime choreographer and good friend, Eddie Ryan (Jared Grimes); the latter is among the New York stage’s premier faucet dancers, however his vigorous numbers really feel like shoehorned extras, inorganic.

Basically, the hurdle with Funny Girl is that it has simply two nice songs, the favored ballad “People” — the lyrics of which make no sense; why are “people who need people the luckiest people?” — and the rousing “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” OK, possibly three songs with “The Music That Makes Me Dance,” when Streisand renders it a heartbreaking acknowledgment of Fanny’s timeless devotion to Nick. The film, which holds up remarkably properly, added a title track for Fanny, right here mystifyingly given to Nick; and it closed on an emotional excessive word with Streisand pouring her soul into the Nineteen Twenties normal, “My Man,” which isn’t used right here.

Feldstein offers a spirited, extremely fulfilling efficiency, and her freshness drew squeals of appreciation from what appeared like a big contingent of very vocal younger feminine followers on a latest press night time. But she by no means fairly makes the fabric soar, and this can be a rickety car that wants a supernova to place fuel in its tank.

Venue: August Wilson Theatre, New York
Cast: Beanie Feldstein, Ramin Karimloo, Jared Grimes, Jane Lynch, Peter Francis James, Ephie Aardema, Debra Cardona, Toni DiBuono, Martin Moran, Amber Ardolino, Daniel Beeman, Colin Bradbury, Kurt Csolak, John Michael Fumara, Leslie Donna Flesner, Afra Hines, Masumi Iwai, Aliah James, Danielle Kelsey, Stephen Mark Lukas, Alicia Lundgren, John Manzari, Katie Mitchell, Justin Prescott, Mariah Reives, Leslie Baker Walker
Director: Michael Mayer
Music: Jule Styne
Lyrics: Bob Merrill
Book: Isobel Lennart, revised by Harvey Fierstein
Set designer: David Zinn
Costume designer: Susan Hilferty
Lighting designer: Kevin Adams
Sound designer: Brian Ronan
Music director and supervisor: Michael Rafter
Orchestrations: Chris Walker
Choreographer: Ellenore Scott
Tap choreographer: Ayodele Casel
Presented by Sonia Friedman Productions, Scott Landis, David Babani

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