Well, that’s it. After all the controversies and poor handling of the original castings, titles, backstage bruises, releases, resignations or whatever, funny girl It is, as many have all along thought, that music Lea Michele Born to drive. BroadwayThe new Fanny Price is simply and without exaggeration, a knockout hit.
Michelle has been in the role since early September, but with some cast members falling ill with Covid in recent weeks, and to give the newcomer some breathing space, critics have only been invited in recent days to August Wilson to watch the changes. It was worth the wait.
From the moment you start singing the opening number “Who are you now?” , the audience relaxes in making sure that this musical, whatever its other merits – or lack thereof, and there is a lot more to it – will be sung by a voice that can do justice. No, more than justice, because Michelle is so good as Fanny that she raises the entire mixed bag production if it’s not up to her level then too soon. It makes the performers who were fine the first time – Ramin Karemlow as Nick Arnstein, Peter Francis James as Florence Siegfeld – look so much better, and raises the overall level of performance to the point that the brilliant Jared Grimes, as Eddie dance teacher, doesn’t look anymore now. Adrift during his amazing tap dance routine: he seems to be part of the show, out of sight From the offer.
Without paraphrasing unnecessarily unfortunate summer headlines, funny girl It opened last spring with Penny Feldstein as Fanny and Jane Lynch as her mother Mrs. Price. Feldstein wasn’t that bad As Gossip suggested – she is a friendly stage performer with a fitting lyrical voice. Alas, funny girl, Just a proper musical, it needs a lot of its star, otherwise there’s just enough begging for attention. Needless to say, the star for whom the show was created seems to realize this with all her might, and she knows it all too well. funny girl Barbra Streisand needed a way back when.
While Michelle hasn’t given any bones about her love for Barbara over the years – it was a constant joke cheerful – I handed Fanny Price that goes along with the original only when absolutely inevitable – Joke readings for Streisand still sound like Streisand, and Power Poems still insist on the big, strapped notes that were Streisand’s calling card long before he became Michelle. Boy.
But suggesting that Michelle is Streisand 2.0 would be as insulting as it is inaccurate. To my ears, Michele’s “People” breathes more than a Streisand classic, perhaps a little warmer. I’m the Greatest Star arrives with such a force of nature that those multiple standing ovations you’ve been reading about seem completely spontaneous and sincere from the heart. And “Don’t Rain On My Parade”—in both the early bravado that can be done and in the dreaded vow to survive in the second act—returned to its rightful place among Broadway’s beloved contestants, with Michelle’s crystal-belt tones ringing out.
New Fanny is equally at home during non-singing segments, nailing punchlines, as she is, and finding a level of comfort with her pals that Feldman didn’t always reach. Michelle and Carmelo have easy chemistry – at one point during the auditioned performance there was a slight mishap with that famous blue marble egg that Nick Luffany gave. It slipped from their hands and loudly landed on the table, sparking laughter among the audience and between the two stars. After a summer of rumored tensions and hurt feelings, the smiles on stage felt like a deep breath had been released.
And Michelle isn’t the only newcomer offering fresh air: Tovah Feldshuh is a gem as Ms. Price, a little ball of grit, fire and motherly dedication that shows exactly where Fanny got her passion and talent. Feldshuh, in ways that weren’t woefully bad as Jane Lynch, is as completely credible as the old-school salon hoof of the past who raised her super-funny daughter to survive in the show business and the world at large.
It’s clear that Faneha took some important lessons seriously. There seems to be a lot of that going on in Wilson.
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