Katerina McCrimmon Can Never Rain on Streisand’s Iconic Parade

L-R: Melissa Manchester (Mrs. Brice) and Katerina McCrimmon (Fanny Brice) in director Michael Mayer’s FUNNY GIRL, on stage at the Ahmanson Theatre through April 28, 2024 Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy
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On Stage With…

Lady Beverly Cohn

Before I launch into a review of director Michael Mayer’s touring production of Funny Girl, currently on stage at the Ahmanson through Sunday, April 28, here’s a brief history of this, if not the most famous, certainly one of the top five of the most memorable Broadway musicals. This musical hit Broadway in 1964 with what became an iconic score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill. The original book was written by Isobel Lennart and for the current revival, was adapted by Tony winner Harvey Fierstein. It was through this original production that the world was introduced to newcomer Barbra Streisand whose characterization of Fanny Brice launched her incredible career. Later on, the stage version was adapted into a screenplay for which Miss Streisand was feted with an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. She was voted the Female Voice of the last century with Frank Sinatra scoring the Male Voice award.

L-R:  Jackson Grove, Katerina McCrimmon & Rodney Thompson in one of the lively tap-dancing numbers choreographed by Ayodele Casel.    Photo Credit:  Matthew Murphy

Now to this production. The story line is not complex. Fanny Brice, a homely girl living on Henry Street on the lower east side of New York, is a born comedian and gifted with an outstanding singing voice (Katerina McCrimmon). Despite her plain looks, she is determined to become successful, (I’m the
Greatest Star). She falls in love with Nicky Arnstein, a debonair scoundrel played by Stephen Mark Lukas (songs: Nicky Arnstein; You Are Woman, I Am Man; Who Are You Now?; His Love Makes Me Beautiful). Eventually, she is hired by Florenz Ziegfeld, performed by Walter Coppage, and after an over-
the-top comic rendition of His Love Makes Me Beautiful, she becomes the number one star of the Ziegfeld Follies, totally capitalizing on her plainness, comic ability, and soaring voice. Despite her doomed relationship with her now husband, Fanny keeps moving (Don’t Rain on My Parade) and ultimately
they painfully part ways. Melissa Manchester does a credible job as the quintessential Jewish mother Mrs. Brice, with over-the-top performances by her “yenta” card-playing cronies Mrs. Strakosh (Eileen T’Kaye,) Mrs. Meeker (Cindy Chang) and Mrs. Nadler (Leah Platt).

Katerina McCrimmon (Fanny Brice)  & Stephen Mark Lukas (Nick Arnstein) 
in director Michael Mayer’s production of FUNNY GIRL on stage at the 
Ahmanson Theatre through April 28, 2024.  Photo Credit:  Matthew Murphy

The production values are stellar beginning with David Zinn’s dazzling Scenic Design, outstanding costumes by Susan Hilferty, Sound Design by Brian Ronan and Cody Spencer, Dance, Vocal and Incidental Musical Arrangements by Alan Williams, Choreography by Ellenore Scott, Music Director/Conductor Elaine Davidson, all deliciously enhanced by Kevin Adams’ spectacular Lighting Design, drenching the stage with a panoply of dazzling colors. Some of the most exciting moments were the incredible tap-dancing sequences tapped by Izaiah Montaque Harris as Eddie Ryan who plays an integral part in Brice’s
slow rise to fame. The rest of the talented ensemble added to the polish and professionalism of this production.

Center Stage: L-R:  Katerina McCrimmon (Fanny Brice) Izaiah Montague Harris (Eddie Ryan) & Company in
one of the multiple dance numbers choreographed by Ellenore Scott  in Michael Mayer’s FUNNY GIRL  on stage at the Ahmanson 
Theatre through April 28, 2024   
Photo Credit:  Matthew Murphy

You must have huge “cojanes’ to even think about doing the lead role of Fanny Brice. Those of us of a certain age attach only one voice to some of the most unforgettable songs ever written and performed by Ms. Streisand. Unlike other musicals, the voices of those who originated the different roles are not
imbedded in our musical memory. But, I could not help hearing that once-in-a
lifetime voice in my head. Ms. McCrimmon has a finely honed vocal instrument, gliding easily from head voice to chest voice with enviable breath control – holding notes so long she actually received applause and howls from the captivated audience and knew exactly how to milk them and played them
like a fiddle. She was clearly adored by the opening night audience, many of whom, I would suspect, were too young to have seen the original version. No singer can ever fill those musical shoes and I would encourage McCrimmon to find a pair of shoes of her own to fill. She is clearly talented but too much of
her characterization – especially some of the “New York Jewish” lines were echoes of Streisand’s. There’s more than one way to play a New York Jewish girl. Perhaps her most serious misstep was the handling of the classic: Arnstein: “Do you like pate”? Fanny: “I drink it all day.” These were seriously
funny lines which she literally threw away. All this said, once McCrimmon divorces herself from Fanny Brice, I suspect she will fine her own “Music That Makes Her Dance.”

Ahmanson Theatre
135 N. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Book by: Isobel Lennart
Revised Book: Harvey Fierstein
Music: Jule Styne
Directed by Michael Mayer
Lyrics: Bob Merrill
Music Supervision: Michael Rafter
Tickets: $45.60-$163.20
Closing: 1:00 pm Sunday, April 28, 2024
Running Time: 2 hours & 40 minutes
(One intermission)
Reservations: (213) 972-4400 or
(Check website for performance schedule)


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