Theater Review: FUNNY GIRL (National Tour at Kennedy Center)

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by Barbara Papendorp on July 7, 2024

in Theater-D.C. / Maryland / Virginia,Tours


Funny Girl is a beloved musical that first premiered on Broadway in 1964, with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, and a book by Isobel Lennart. The original production starred Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice, a role that catapulted her to stardom and earned her critical acclaim. The Broadway production was a major success, running for over 1,300 performances. Streisand’s portrayal of Fanny Brice became iconic, and she reprised the role in the 1968 film adaptation, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Jackson Grove, Katerina McCrimmon, Rodney Thompson

Stopping at the Kennedy Center on its national tour, this new production of Funny Girl is a delightful homage to the classic musical, capturing the charm, wit, and emotional depth of the original production while infusing it with fresh energy and contemporary nuances.


I noticed a lot of toe tapping and head bobbing from the audience as the lights dimmed and the overture played. Occasionally, pulsating lights around the proscenium accompanied by bursts from the horn section alerting us that we were in for an energetic evening. Led by Elaine Davidson, the 17-piece orchestra delivered a lush, full-bodied rendition of Jule Styne’s memorable score.

Katerina McCrimmon, Izaiah Montaque Harris

At rise, Fanny Brice is backstage at the New Amsterdam Theatre, New York City, 1924. She is reminiscing, surrounded by ghosts from past Follies shows. The action winds back in time with an adept quick change in scenery to Fanny’s early days before being discovered by Florenz Ziegfeld. From young go-getter to Ziegfeld star to wife of good-looking gambler Nick Arnstein, the standout of the evening is undoubtedly Katerina McCrimmon, whose portrayal of Fanny is both heartwarming and humorous. She captures the energy of a teenager in “I’m the Greatest Star”; her vocal prowess and comedic timing breathe new life into iconic numbers like “Don’t Rain on My Parade”; and her mellifluous voice in “People” is reminiscent of Judy Garland and, to borrow a phrase from Garland film, “A Star Is Born”.

Katerina McCrimmon, Stephen Mark Lukas

Opposite her, Stephen Mark Lukas is a compelling foil in Nick Arnstein. Their chemistry is palpable, making their romantic journey believable and affecting. His suave demeanor and rich tenor voice add a layer of sophistication to the role, balancing Fanny’s unrestrained exuberance with a more subdued but equally captivating presence.

Stephen Mark Lucas

In her rise to stardom, Fanny gets help from Eddie Ryan (the very talented Isaiah Montaque Harris) and moral support her single mother (Melissa Manchester). The supporting cast is equally strong, with each member contributing to a dynamic and engaging ensemble.

Melissa Manchester, Izaiah Montaque Harris

The direction by Michael Mayer is crisp and insightful, balancing the show’s comedic elements with its more poignant moments. Ellenore Scott’s choreography is vibrant and well-executed, with large ensemble numbers that are visually striking with the ensemble infusing the dance sequences with energy and flair, executing Scott’s intricate routines with precision and enthusiasm, making numbers like “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat” and “His Love Makes Me Beautiful” true showstoppers. The set design by David Zinn is both grand and functional, evoking the glamour of the Ziegfeld Follies and the intimacy of Fanny Brice’s personal moments. Susan Hilferty’s costumes are stunning, reflecting the period with an eye for detail and a flair for the dramatic. The lighting design by Kevin Adams enhances the overall mood, seamlessly transitioning between the bright lights of the stage and the more subdued tones of Fanny’s off-stage life.


Funny Girl at the Kennedy Center is a triumphant revival that honors the legacy of the original while bringing fresh energy to the stage. With stellar performances, dynamic direction, and top-notch production values, it’s a must-see for fans of musical theater. Whether you’re a longtime admirer of Fanny Brice’s story or experiencing it for the first time, this production is sure to entertain, inspire, and leave you humming its memorable tunes long after the final curtain call. And if you’re like me and fellow audience members, you’ll be up on your feet applauding Katerina McCrimmon as “The Greatest Star”.

Katerina McCrimmon

photos by Evan Zimmerman and Matthew Murphy for Murphymade

Melissa Manchester, Katerina McCrimmon

Funny Girl
National Tour
presented by The Kennedy Center through July 14, 2024
tour continues; for dates and cities, visit Funny Girl
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