Marya Grandy is thrilling as Fanny Brice in the musical biography that just opened at the Asolo Repertory Theatre. Written and directed by David H. Bell, the show is loaded with optical goodies. The set design by Brian Sidney Bainbridge replicates the backstage space of a theater in 1936. It also employs a screen on which black- and-white film reels from different periods in Brice’s life accompany flashbacks, as well as, varying sumptuous curtains that swoosh down to frame highlights of famous shows she performed.
The costume design by Virgil C. Johnson is colorfully stunning, ranging from tailored suits and coats to spangly flapper dresses to the outrageous costumes Brice wore for performances. The production is fast-paced and peppered with songs from Brice’s repertoire.
Grandy is fabulous in the part, loaded with chutzpah and looking like she was born for it, with her lithe, reed-like body, expressive face reminiscent of Brice and her incredible pair of lungs. Her comic timing is perfect as she barks out lines such as, “At least when Nicky had his hand in my pocket, it felt good,” to Billy Rose, her third husband.
Besides her most famous songs, “Second Hand Rose,” “My Man, I Love Him So” and “Rose of Washington Square,” there were several I’d never heard and was pleased to do so: “Lovey Joe” and “Aggravatin’ Man” included.
Unlike the well-known movie starring Barbra Streisand, “Funny Girl,” which centered on her con-man husband — Nicky Arnstein — this play focuses more on Brice’s marriage to “I’m a producer, not a crook — there’s a subtle difference” Rose. The story follows her from her Vaudeville beginning, to Tin Pan Alley and on to Broadway, the Ziegfeld Follies, a fling with Hollywood, and, finally, to her long-running radio broadcast, “The Baby Snooks Show.”
The men in Brice’s life are marvelously represented by Stef Tovar as Rose, Irving Berlin and others; Lance Baker as Harold Underhill, Nick Arnstein and others; and Norm Boucher as Florenz Ziegfeld and others.
IF YOU GO
“Fanny Brice: America’s Funny Girl’ runs through June 17 at the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s Mertz Theatre. Tickets are $22 to $69. Call 351-8000.
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