'Funny Girl' presented with dramatic gusto

DOWNEY - Just like the Downey Civic Light Opera (DCLO) promised in early August when it announced its 2010-11 season lineup - starting with "No, No Nanette" and followed by "The Melody Lingers On" - its third and last production of the year, "Funny Girl," which opened last week and finishes June 19 at the Downey Civic Theatre, is awash in music, dance, comedy and romance.Make that "lively music, dance, comedy and romance." First staged on Broadway in 1964 starring a young Barbra Streisand, who later played the same role in the movie version in 1968, "Funny Girl" traces the real-life story of Broadway vaudevillian and comedienne Fanny Brice who falls in love and marries a dashingly handsome entrepreneur and gambler, Nick Arnstein; the couple has it good for a while before questionable investment decisions by Nick and their inevitable marital squabbles doom the marriage, with Fanny resuming her interrupted career and Nick fading away into the shadows. Streisand's movie performance and singing in "Funny Girl" won her a share of the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1969 with Katharine Hepburn ("The Lion in Winter"). DCLO's large "Funny Girl" cast is a charming blend of veteran romantic musical performers and a sprinkling of recent performing arts graduates. Having performed in various years at DCLO, the veteran troopers (three are members of Actors' Equity) no doubt will look familiar to regular local theater-goers. But whatever the cast's backgrounds (a few have even appeared in films or TV), their scenes throb with dramatic gusto, heightened by their trained, strong and sonorous vocalizations. And true to the solid tradition of the DCLO, the sets, the costumes, the lighting, the choreography, and other production elements add up to great production values. "Funny Girl," which has not been performed in New York since 1964, was supposed to make its debut at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles next year, on Feb.1-26, but, as DCLO executive producer and director Marsha Moode was quick to point out, "We beat them to it."

********** Published: June 9, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 8