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The KeyBank production of ‘Funny Girl’ makes us the happiest people in the world

It is never easy to get a successful Broadway show onto the stage and this was quite evident in regards to the long road that the eventual Broadway hit “Funny Girl” traveled. Broadway producer Ray Stark was married to Fanny Brice’s and Nicky Arnstein’s daughter, Frances. He went through eleven writers before finding Isobel Lennart to do the book that made everyone happy.

When Mary Martin (who was the first one offered the role of Fanny Brice) read the screenplay she suggested to Stark that it be made into a stage musical. The writing of the songs was offered to Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim but Sondheim turning the job down because Mary Martin was not Jewish. Martin soon bowed out of the project. The lead roll was then offered in succession to Anne Bancroft, Eydie Gormé (who asked that her husband be considered to play Nick), Carol Burnett and finally Barbra Streisand.  

The project was then put on hold until Bob Fosse was tagged to direct but he quit after several months. It was suggested to hire Garson Kanin to direct with whom Streisand was not thrilled to work with because of him wanting to ax the song “People”. After Kanin saw the audience reaction to the song it was allowed to stay. At the Boston tryouts the show was felt to be too long and thirty minutes were cut but the critics were still not on board. Prior to the Philadelphia debut another half hour was chopped off. Harvey Fierstein wrote the revised book.

Once in New York it took five postponements as the show did some more out of town tweaking. At long last, with 17 previews the Broadway production opened March 26, 1964 at the Winter Garden Theatre followed by the Majestic Theatre and finally the Broadway Theatre closing on July 1, 1967 after a total run of 1,348 performances. The show was nominated for eight Tony Awards.

Streisand took her roll over the pond to London’s West End at the Prince of Wales Theatre opening on April 13, 1966. When Streisand became pregnant she was replaced by understudy Lisa Shane who played the role until its closing. There was also an Australian production with Jill Perryman in the lead role.

The first North American tour began in October of 1996 starring Debbie Gibson as Fanny and Robert Westenberg as Nick but closed prematurely in Green Bay, Wisconsin in November of that year. The current tour starring Katerina McCrimmon and Stephen Mark Lukas started off on September 9, 2023 to the present. There has been a West End revival, a UK tour, a Paris production, a Broadway revival as well as numerous versions including an Israeli production.

Fanny Brice (Katerina McCrimmon) is a rather plain but precocious teen trying to find work in vaudeville in spite of the opinion of the theater owner, Tom Keeney (David Foley, Jr.) and her mother Mrs. Brice (Barbara Tirrell) and friends Mrs. Strakosh (Eileen T’Kaye) and Mrs. Meeker (Cindy Chang) who feel that she is not a typical beauty. Encouraged by her friend and fellow vaudevillian, Eddie Ryan (Izaiah Montaque Harris) she develops her comedic strengths as well as singing and dancing skills until finally given her big break by none other than Florenz Ziegfeld (Walter Coppage) who casts her as the lead in his newest folly. On opening night Fanny turns the tables on Ziegfeld by turning a romantic number into a comic routine as a very pregnant bride that causes an uproar with Florenz. Luckily, the audience loves the number so it stays.

During rehearsals, Fanny meets Nicky Arnstein (Stephen Mark Lukas), a near to well wealthy bon vivant who makes his money as a professional gambler. Fanny falls head over heel in love, especially when Nick attends a block party in her honor. They later meet in Baltimore at a swanky restaurant where they declare their love for each other. Fanny sets her cap to marry Nick in spite of his gambling ways.

As for this touring production it is nothing less than spectacular. Everyone is in fine voice, the dancing is wonderful, the stage sets fantastic, the costuming opulent, and the acting spot on. It is actually two shows in one with a Ziegfeld Follies thrown in much to our delight.

Katerina McCrimmon as Fanny owns the part with her delightful comic asides and strong singing voice necessary for the part. The fearsome threesome of Ma Brice and her two friends steal the show with their poker games. Izaiah Montaque Harris is superb as Eddie Ryan the tap dancing and singing phenom who got the loudest cheers after his numbers. Stephen Mark Lucas as Nick plays the handsome gambler and romancer to the letter.

With superb lighting by Kevin Adams, sharp sound design by Brian Ronan and Cody Spencer, fantastic costuming by Susan Hilferty, spacious scenic design by David Zinn, exciting choreography by Ellenore Scott and fascinating tap choreography by Ayodele Casel this show is a guaranteed sold out hit that will thrill everyone in the audience from eight to eighty. The fifteen piece orchestra under the direction of Elaine Davidson delights. The action is kept at a break neck speed by director Michael Mayer that makes the little over two hours fly by.

In the proud tradition of the Broadway musical, this show has it all and then some. Brassy Ziegfeld Folly numbers, heartfelt romantic ballads, superb dancing numbers with exciting tap routines, flashy costumes, fantastic sets and superb acting makes this must see Broadway musical theater. Don’t let the weather rain (or snow) on your parade. Come on down for an evening of fun and find out what happy people do (hint, they see touring Broadway musicals).

The KeyBank Broadway Series production of “Funny Girl” will be on stage in the Connor Palace at Playhouse Square through March 10, 2024. For more information and to purchase tickets go to or call (216) 241-6000.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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