Monthly Archive for: ‘September, 2014’

Ambitious Funny Girl at Hillbarn a winner

The entire company sings of Fanny Brice’s success in the number “Henry Street.”

FUNNY GIRL: Musical. Music by Jule Styne. Lyrics by Bob Merrill. Book by Isobel Lennnart from an original story by  Miss Lennart. Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 E Hillsdale Blvd, Foster City, CA (650) 349-6411 or    August 28 – September 21, 2014.

Ambitious Funny Girl at Hillbarn a winner. Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 of 5 Stars)

In this their 74th season the Hillbarn players under their new Executive Artistic Director Dan Demers have mounted the musical Funny Girl that will forever be associated with Barbara Streisand. She starred in the Broadway show that ran for over 1300 performances and reprised the role for another long run on the West End in London before giving an almost Oscar winning performance in the 1968 movie. When the Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, New Jersey produced the musical in 2001 the New York times critic noted “ Few theater companies outside of summer stock, dare to attempt [the] grand spectacle  that propelled Barbara Streisand’s career . . .”

The story is based on the life of Fanny Brice (Melissa Wolfklain) shortly before and after World War I, told with humor, music and song of  her trials, tribulations and successes. It is told in flashbacks with the opening scene backstage at an unnamed theater where she is awaiting her husband Nick Arnstein (William Giammona) who has been released from prison. She reminisces of her time in the Henry Street tenements of Lower East Side Manhattan.

Her mother Mrs. Brice (Tracy Chiappone) is playing cards with the ladies poker club (Maureen O’Neil, Stephanie Case and Regina Quigley). We are reminded in song “If a Girl Isn’t Pretty” chances for star-struck Fanny who is not a beauty to make the big time are minimal. Not to be dissuaded (“I’m the Greatest Star”) she cons local dancer Eddie Ryan (Justin Buchs) to teach her dance steps that lead to a part in the Ziegfeld Follies.

Boy does she take advantage of that small part!! While the tenor (Steven Ennis) is singing “His Love Makes Me Beautiful” and the scantily dressed Ziegfeld Girls are parading down the stairway, Fanny ambles down (very reminiscent of Alice Gooch in Mame) as a pregnant bride creating a classic comedy routine. Rather than fire her, Ziegfeld gives her a role in his shows and you know the rest of the story.

Love enters Fanny’s life after meeting gambler Nick Arnstein and for her it is love at first sight (I Want to Be Seen with You Tonight) and they both go to the Henry Street Party. At this point Fanny and Nick as a pair or alone sing three of the most memorable songs ever written: “People”, “You Are Women, I Am Man” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” It is a great first act curtain.

Fanny Brice (Left, Melissa WolfKlain) and NIck Arnstein (Right, Will Giammona) Sing the iconic song “You are Woman, I am Man”

To revive interest in the audience for the second act there is the obligatory upscale ensemble number “Sadie, Sadie” (married lady). Yes she marries Nick and as the axiom goes, “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

If there is a theme, other than ‘try, try again’ to obtain your dream, it is love is truly blind but it can be overcome.

Melissa WolfKlain as Fanny Brice

The book, lyrics and songs are cleverly written and the show is deftly directed by Dan Demers. He wisely has not attempted to mimic the shenanigans or voice intonations of Fanny Brice but allowed Melissa WolfKlain to create a unique, nuanced and believable performance.  It helps that she is a real pro with excellent stage presence and tremendous singing voice. Accolades go to Justin Buchs as Eddie Ryan, Tracy Chiappone as Mrs. Brice and William Giammona, Nick Arnstein.

The ensemble under James Zongus choreography/direction are a delight with their exuberance and polish and earn extra awards for “Rat-tat-tat-tat” tap dance sequence. All this with the cast wrapped up in charming/humorous/revealing costumes by Lisa Cross and wigs/make-up by Dee Morrissey. Not to be forgotten are the 18 member orchestra that do not miss a beat. You too should not miss this charming, entertaining evening with the caveat it does go on for 2 hours and 45 minutes with an intermission.

Cast List: (In Order of Appearance) Melissa WolfKlain, Fanny Brice; Jen Butler, Emma (Fanny Brice U/S); Tracy Chiappone, Mrs. Brice; Maureen O’Neill, Mrs. Strakosh; Stephanie Case, Mrs. Meeker; Regina Quigley, Mrs. O’Malley; Richard Ames, Tom Keeney; Justin Buchs,  Eddie Ryan; Steven Ennis, Ziegfeld Tenor; William Giammona, Nick Arnstein; Dennis Lickteig, Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. ENSEMBLE: Rachelle Abbey, Christine Baker, Paige Collazo, Jessica Maxey, Lauren Schneider, Emily Mannion, Matt Gill, Jon Toussaint.

Production Team: Directed by Dan Demers; Musical Direction by Joe Murphy; Choreography by James Zongus; Scenic Design by Kuo-Hao Lo; Lighting Design by Don Coluzzi; Props by AJ Diggins; Sound Design by Alan Chang; Costume Design by Lisa Cross; Make-Up and Wigs by Dee Morrissey.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of


Melissa WolfKlain as Fanny Brice in Hillbarn Theatre’s production of Funny Girl. – See more at:


The entire company sings of Fanny Brice’s success in the number “Henry Street.” – See more at:

From Left to Right: Mrs Brice (Tracy Chiappone), Mrs. O’Malley (Regina Quigley), Mrs. Meeker (Stephanie Case), and Mrs. Strakosh (Maureen O’Neill) all play poker and talk about Fanny and her dreams of becoming a Ziegfeld Star. – See more at:


Fanny Brice (Left, Melissa WolfKlain) and NIck Arnstein (Right, Will Giammona) Sing the iconic song “You are Woman, I am Man” –

Photos by Mark & Tracy


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