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North Carolina Theatre Preview: Funny Girl Chronicles the Life and Loves of Singer/Comedienne Fanny Brice

September 5, 2003 - Raleigh, NC:


Peoplepeople who need peoplewill love the North Carolina Theatre's exuberant production of the 1964 hit Broadway musical Funny Girl, which made Barbra Streisand a star and made "People" a Top 40 hit. Funny Girl, with book by Isobel Lennart and music by Jules Styne and lyrics by Bob Merrill, is the heart-tugging (and highly fictionalized) story of popular singer and ugly-duckling comedienne Fanny Brice (1891-1951), a Ziegfeld Follies star from 1910 onward.

Broadway and NCT veterans Jacqueline Piro and Merwin Foard will play Fanny Brice and her husband, gangster Nick Arnstein, in the NCT production of Funny Girl directed by Tee Scatuorchio. Funny Girl is the 20th show that the highly talented New York director and choreographer has staged for the North Carolina Theatre. Some of the others are Footloose, Children of Eden, The Wizard of Oz, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Oliver!

Funny Girl chronicles Fanny Brice's meteoric rise to stardom after she was discovered by impresario Florenz Ziegfeld (1869-1932), who dedicated his Follies to "Glorifying the American Girl." Her storybook courtship by and marriage in 1919 to handsome and charming mobster Nick Arnstein and their subsequent breakup as Arnstein kept getting into trouble with the law provides the core of this perennially popular musical. (Arnstein eventually did time in the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.)

Brice's trademark tune, "My Man," started out as a French torch song. Her other hits included "Second Hand Rose," "I Should Worry," and "Rose of Washington Square."

Brice's most famous comic character was Baby Snooks, a part she played in the Follies and on the radio from 1936 onwards. In the Follies, Brice performed with Eddie Cantor, W.C. Fields, and Will Rogers, among others. On the silver screen, she starred in My Man (1928), Be Yourself! (1930), The Great Ziegfeld (1936), and Everybody Sing (1938).

Fanny Brice's life was the subject of the 1939 motion picture Rose of Washington Square and the 1964 Broadway musical and 1968 movie Funny Girl. (For her performance in the film, Barbra Streisand shared the best-actress Oscar with Katharine Hepburn [The Lion in Winter].)

On Broadway, Funny Girl debuted at the Winter Garden on March 26, 1964, and earned eight Tony® Award nominations. The show ran for 1,348 performances.

The North Carolina Theatre presents Funny Girl Friday-Saturday, Sept. 5-6, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 7, at 2 p.m.; Tuesday-Friday, Sept. 9-12, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 13, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 14, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center, 1 E. South St., Raleigh. $18-$60. 919/831-6950 (NCT Box Office) or 919/834-4000 (Ticketmaster) or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venue/115203. Note: Audio description will be available during the Sept. 13 matinee. http://www.nctheatre.com/.