What’s the Buzz? Funny Girl is “Brightest Star” at MSMT.

Wed, 06/26/2024 - 8:00pm

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    What's the Buzz" covers what's happening, what might be happening, and what should be happening in the opinion of the author.

    Eleanor Cade Busby is an unpublished award-winning writer, photographer and blogger & simply loves writing about herself in third person.She published this absolutely all true bio.

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    She attended Goddard College, The Rhode Island Conservatory of Music and The School of Life, majoring in everything she could stuff into her head. She once had her own office and a red stapler. Her employees learned quickly never to touch it.

    Much of her very long life has been spent on or back-stage at theaters. She penned a couple of plays, directed many more and acted in scores of productions. She's done it all except hanging lighting. You can't make her climb a ladder.

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    Eleanor Cade Busby lives in Midcoast Maine with two cats who like to stand on her head at 3 AM demanding a sacrifice, often her sanity.

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What’s the Buzz? Funny Girl is a “Brightest Star” at MSMT.

         On Wednesday afternoon, “Funny Girl” began her run at Maine State Music Theater. In an unprecedented move, MSMT was granted the exclusive rights to produce this beloved show following the conclusion of its Broadway tour, making this the first company to bring Funny Girl to Maine audiences after its Broadway run.

The packed theater was buzzing with anticipation yet honestly this reviewer was a bit hesitant.  As a former Mrs. Strakosh, I’ve seen some pretty rough productions of “Funny Girl.” Thankfully this was the opposite. There is perhaps no musical that so totally relies on its lead to stand or fall.  Fanny Brice was a real, breathing woman who struggled and fought and scrapped her way onto the stage and into the spotlight. Her story is a tough one and must be handled with love while showing her struggles.

Fanny Brice wasn’t “pretty like Miss Atlantic City” and she took a lot of lumps from well-meaning people who tried to discourage her from trying to act. She never meant to be an example of determination and guts for many young actresses who didn’t fit the mold, but it happened anyway.  She refused to quit, throwing herself headlong into life and into love.  In the musical, her need  for love  and her passion for and marriage to the charming con-man Nick Arnstein remain front and center.

In this production Jenna Lea Rosen gives Fanny Brice a breath of fresh life. She refrains from mimicking those who have gone before her and who (in my opinion) made the story their vehicle instead of giving Fanny a real portrayal.  Rosen does indeed deliver a star turn, but not with stereotypes or cheap copies. From the beginning on Henry Street, she uses her heart and soul and gives every bit due Fanny to the audience. Her voice is lovely and she has a serious set of pipes, but for a change, the audience was carried away with her Fanny as a flawed woman with a huge heart. Rosen had people in tears, and cheering her on as the heartbreak of Nicky Arnstein unfolded. When curtain call came, the audience exploded and Rosen’s face at that moment alone was worth the admission. Brava!

Douglas Williams (Nick Arnstein) was charming and sweet, with a roguish touch that hinted at things to come. He was also able to give Nick probably more than he was due. His Nick made it easier to understand why he chose to do what he did (embezzling) and there was some sympathy for him. Nick was just one alias he carried. Williams got to sing only a little and his one solo reprise was breathtaking. The show belongs to Fanny, but this time we could have done with more songs for that character.

Tyler Johnson-Campion (Eddie) was brilliant with his character and his dancing, letting us know he was devoted to Fanny and a true loyal friend.  Sue Cella as Fanny’s mother, Mrs. Brice was a delightful stand out.

   The cast also includes Mark Aldrich, Tommy Betz, Joe Capstick, Mary Beth Donahoe, David Girolmo, Tauren Hagans, Michelle Beth Herman, Charis Leos, Jeremiah Valentino Porter, Mandie Rapoza, Alexander Rios, and Juson Williams. The MSMT Singers for the 2024 Mainstage Season rounded out the cast nicely: Karoline Brechter, Thomas Dalceredo, Jessica Hoadley, Calista Jones, Nate Krohmer, Christian Miller, Lav Raman, and Mark Tran Russ.

Funny Girl was deftly directed and choreographed by Kenny Ingram.   Jason Wetzel (Music Director),  kept the tempo up.  The team is completed by Amy Bertacini (Production Stage Manager), Jeffrey D. Kmiec (Scenic Designer), Sam Biondiello (Lighting Designer), Shannon Slaton (Sound Designer), Theresa Bush (Costume Designer), Luis Garcia (Video Designer), Kevin S. Foster II (Wig Designer), Jamibeth Margolis (Casting).

Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the magic of Funny Girl at Maine State Music Theatre.  Performances will run from June 26 - July 13 at the Pickard Theater in Brunswick, Maine. For more information about Maine State Music Theatre and its productions, visit www.msmt.org.

SHOW PHOTOS AND VIDEO: by MSMT/Jared Morneau Photography.



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