Miami native Katarina McCrimmon dazzled the opening night audience attending “Funny Girl” at the Broward Center of the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale with her singing, dancing and comic skills in her portrayal of early 20th century vaudeville star Fanny Brice.
McCrimmon played Brice in the role originated 60 years ago by Barbra Streisand on Broadway in 1964. ”Funny Girl” propelled Streisand to a lengthy career both as an actress and singer in becoming an icon for all women entering show business.
Because “Funny Girl” has become so identified with Streisand, few directors and actresses wanted to attempt a revival of the musical until last year on Broadway.
The current national tour production, directed by Michael Mayer, features the iconic score by Jule Styne (music) and Bob Merrill (lyrics), an updated book by Harvey Fierstein based on Isobel Lennart’s original version and choreography by Ellenore Scott.
Starting with Brice’s first big break in the Ziegfeld Follies, the musical follows her journey to stardom, punctuated by a tumultuous and ultimately failed marriage to gambler Nick Arnstein (played by Stephen Mark Lukas).
McCrimmon, who is 25, proved that she did not need to be Streisand to be convincing as Brice. She begins the musical as an ambitious but laughable klutz, later transitioning to a dominating presence, especially in song, to a heartbroken wife in act two.
Fanny Brice (Katarina McCrimmon) is being wooed romantically by Nick Arnstein (Stephen Mark Lukas) in “Funny Girl”, running now through November 26 at the Broward Center of the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale through November 26. Photo credit: Matthew Murphy.
Her powerful renditions of “I’m The Greatest Star”, “People” and the finale of the first act “Don’t Rain on My Parade” thrilled the audience to rise and give McCrimmon multiple standing ovations just by the end of act one.
McCrimmon was so believable as the unbeautiful Jewish Fanny Brice from the Lower East Side of New York, with a thick Jewish accented nasal voice (sounding like Streisand at times), that it is surprising to learn that McCrimmon is a second generation Cuban-American who resided in the Westchester suburb of Miami.
She attended various performing arts schools in Miami, including the New World School of the Arts, performed in children’s theater at Actors Playhouse in Coral Gables, graduated from Florida State University in Tallahassee and was the backup singer for Kristin Chenoweth in a concert at the Broward Center, prior to landing the plum role of Fanny Brice.
The musical, although dominated by McCrimmon, has a lot of talent in the rest of the cast. As Arnstein, Lukas possesses an exceptional voice, and is superb as the counterpart to McCrimmon. He shines in his romantic scenes with McCrimmon, especially in their duet “You Are Woman, I Am Man” and in his solo “Funny Girl”, lamenting Nick’s love for Fanny.
Izaiah Montaque Harris shines as a tap dancer, playing Fanny’s best friend Eddie Ryan, who pines for Fanny and makes her see the many pitfalls of staying married to Nick. His wizardry at tap dancing gives the audience an opportunity to relish what vaudeville was like in the 1920s.
Eddie Ryan (Izaiah Montaque Harris) tap dances in celebration of Fanny Brice (Katarina McCrimmon) starring in the Ziegfeld Follies to the delight of Fanny’s friends and neighbors with the banner “Mazel Tov Fanny” in “Funny Girl”, running now through November 26 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale. Photo credit: Matthew Murphy
Barbara Tirrell was the standby for the role of Mrs. Brice, Fanny’s mother in the 2022 Broadway production of “Funny Girl”’ Tirrell was signed for the national tour as a temporary replacement for actress Melissa Manchester, who injured her kneecaps. Tirrell was believable as the hard luck mother whose husband left her and who encouraged young Fanny to fulfill her dreams on stage. She was superb musically in her renditions of “Sadie, Sadie” and “Who Taught Her Everything She Knows.”
The sets by David Zinn takes the audience back to the era of vaudeville and the costumes by Susan Hilferty range from the long-skirted outfits worn by Mrs. Brice and her friends on the Lower East Side of New York to Fanny Brice’s glitzy stage dresses and the sparkle-studded suits of the male performers.
As was the case with Streisand emerging as a star for her performance 60 years ago in the original “Funny Girl”, one can’t help but be thrilled for the emerging talent of Katarina McCrimmon, who has emerged as a shining star of her own.
The entire cast of “Funny Girl’, now playing through November 26 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale. Photo credit: Corey Martineau