(L to R): Leslie Flesner, Afra Hines, Beanie Feldstein (Fanny Brice), Ramin Karimloo (Nick Arnstein) in Funny Girl by Matthew Murphy, 2022
With big shoes to fill, it is easy to compare Beanie Feldstein to the unparalleled Barbara Streisand who originated the role of Fanny Brice in the 1964 production of Funny Girl. And while I actively remind myself not to compare Feldstein (or anyone for that matter) to Streisand, it is hard to imagine why she was cast. Feldstein is talented and has good comedic timing, but she lacks the vocal agility and range needed for a musical with multiple numbers which require belting. Or she was holding back, but I doubt it.
Feldstein’s Fanny Brice is lacking in more ways than just the fact that she’s not Barbara Streisand, however. The character is meant to have confidence because they’ve got an unmatched voice. That confidence also overcompensates, by way of humor, to mask the insecurities Brice has about her looks and class. This humor and defense mechanism allows Brice to laugh with the audience. Feldstein plays (or was directed by Michael Mayer to play) the character with a wide-eyed, juvenile quality and a lot of campy side-eye to the audience. There was nothing compelling or urgent in her solos, especially “Don’t Rain on my Parade”. Feldstein preempts the conflict and by doing so, stamps out the flame before it can ignite a spark to give her the impetus to fight and belt it out.
However, in the numbers, “Cornet Man”, “My Loves Reflection”, and “Rat-a-tat-tat”, choreographed by Ellenore Scott and Ayodele Casel, Feldstein shines and definitely brings the over-the-top cheese this production seems to require. Probably because the vocal demand is lowered and the talented ensemble of dancers help elevate this production to the glitz and glamour we expect. Particularly worth mentioning is Jared Grimes, who throughout the production, has a few solo tap moments (camp included) that are genuinely stunning.
Feldstein found her footing in the duet of “You are Woman, I am Man” with Ramin Karimloo who revived the role of Nick Arnstein, where the two play off each other’s physical comedy well, but it is the first and only time there is any chemistry between the two. Karimloo plays the dichotomy of the character of Nick Arnstein well, even if the book revised by Harvey Feirstein is still rife with dated sexual politics. The whole relationship with Brice is a gamble for Arnstein and he is emasculated when Brice finds success causing a tailspin for him, their relationship, and her career. And while this tailspin helps motivate Feldstein to finally sing out by the end of the show, it all arrives a bit too little too late.
August Wilson’s Theatre
Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 PM
Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 PM
Matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 PM and Sundays at 3 PM hope
245 W 52nd Street
For tickets visit here
Follow on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter at @FunnyGirlBwy