Center Stage: ‘Funny Girl’ performer Elizabeth McMonagle brings play to life
Run, Run, Run for fun, fun, “Funny Girl;” the fabulous 173rd smash hit, currently lighting up the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre’s main stage till May 14. Starring Actors’ Equity performer Elizabeth McMonagle making her Broadway Palm debut in the role of Fanny Brice (born Fania Borach in Manhattan’s Lower East Side 1891/1951).
“Funny Girl” made a Broadway star out of former Broadway gypsy Barbra Streisand, and is the real life rags to riches story of Fanny Brice (McMonagle) as she makes this journey by becoming Broadway’s biggest star under producer Florenz Ziegfeld (Dale Given).
While she was cheered on stage as a great comedienne and singer (in the 1921 Follies, Brice starred and introduced song “My Man,” later to become her signature song.) Although she was acclaimed on stage, in real life she faced a doomed relationship with husband, man about town, playboy/ gambler Nick Arnstein (played by a Palm favorite- Drew Stark,) a guy Fanny really loved.
Super star McMonagle goes about as far as any performer can towards recreating the fun, laughter and joy that was Fanny Brice; while she also manages to capture the brash, chutzpah and darling klutziness, along with the dazzling sounds and energy that made Barbra Streisand a star in the very same show. McMonagle is a performer really sets a theater ablaze.
“Funny Girl,” which opened on Broadway in 1964 has music by composer Jules Stein and lyrics by Bob Merrill. This combination created one of the best musical scores around with Grammy winning songs like “People,” “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” (plus my favorites, “I’m the Greatest Star” and “The Music That Makes Me Dance.”)
Broadway Palm has pulled out all the stops with a super duper cast including such Palm favorites as Given (Ziegfeld), M L Graham (Mrs. Strakosh), Jim Heffernan (Keeney), Megan Orlowski (Mrs. O’Malley), Christopher Russell (Eddie Ryan); and outstanding, Diana Wilde (Mrs. Brice).
They’ve dressed this Zeigfeld Follies-type show to the nines (Costumes-John P. White) showy sets Evan Adamson. Kudos in recreating this dazzling show go to Director Brian Enzman and Choreographer Kerry Lambert. These two talented men have staged the production numbers with affection and precision, making the stage look opulent and filled with razzle dazzle at all times.
The fact remains the real standout is McMonagle in the leading role debut, which is a kind of impossibility – a dynamic talent playing the role of a spectacular entertainer, portrayed by a performer who became a Broadway/Hollywood super star in this particular role. Yet somehow McMonagle manages to put her own stamp on this portrayal by never going foe duplication or imitation. She does the role justice and does it well. Here is a spontaneous comedian, with a big belt sound and just a smidge of chutzpah thrown in to make it ring true. WOW!
Another amazing performance is given by Stark as Nick Arnstein, which Stark carries off with great style and charm. In noting all those accolades let’s not leave out the Palm’s favorite talents, all deserve bravos, as does the whole ensemble cast. I would be remiss if I didn’t single out Russell as Eddie Ryan, this talented song and dance man is a standout in whatever he plays.
It has been said that “Funny Girl” without Streisand would fall flat, wrong! This particular Broadway Palm production is a comic, tuneful, exciting a musical as any you’re likely to see on any stage anywhere. “Funny Girl” now playing on the main stage is great for a wonderful evening out, featuring dinner and great live musical theater, so like I’ve said, “run, run, run for fun, fun “Funny Girl.” Start the journey now, by phoning the box office (239) 278-4422. When you call remind ’em Marsha sent you.