It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to undertake a role that will be forever identified with Barbra Streisand. For that alone, I salute Elizabeth McMonagle who is starring in Funny Girl at Broadway Palm Theatre. She’s softer around the edges than La Streisand and her voice, while strong, is not the biggest on the stage. Her performance of the most well-known songs in the score, like “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” is more nuanced than brassy. She’s not a force of nature like Babs, but really, who is? She’s an audience pleaser and that’s what counts. The part has to be exhausting. McMonagle is on stage for almost all of the scenes that chronicle the career of Fanny Brice as she becomes a Ziegfeld star.
To my mind, the play has a few too many scenes, 22 in all. The first act alone ran an hour and a half. The effect is choppy with so many set changes dragging down the momentum a bit. The energy of the cast, however, never falters. Kudos to the ensemble who tap dance and change costumes with reckless abandon.
The costumes by John P. White, by the way, are gorgeous. The production number surrounding Fanny’s comical song as a bride is particularly effective with the show girls wearing towering wedding cake headdresses. And if they ever want to retire the white-satin-lined opera cape in which Nick Arnstein makes his entrance, I hope they’ll call me.
Drew Stark as Arnstein is suitably tall, dark, and handsome. It’s easy to see why Fanny would fall for him, but equally easy to see why her BFF Eddie Ryan, played by Christopher Russell, instantly distrusts him. Russell, Diana Wilde as Fanny’s mother, and ML Graham as neighbor Mrs. Strakosh were my personal favorites in the cast.
If the follies of love and the theater are your cup of tea, Funny Girl is for you.
The show runs through May 14. Call 239.278.4422 for tickets.