After a successful four-show run, the cast and crew of MUSKET wrapped up their production of the Broadway hit “Funny Girl” last Sunday at the Power Center. Audiences watched leading lady Fanny Brice, played by Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore Carly Meyer, go from a determined dreamer to a star whose attention every character longs for. Inspired by the real life of Fanny Brice, the musical follows the actress’s rise to fame and the effects fame had on her life off the stage.
The show began with quite the entrance from Fanny. Walking from behind the audience, she made her way through the aisles to take her place at center stage. Shortly after, the first of many exclamations Fanny would make was a memorable one: “I’m a bagel on a plate full of onion rolls!”
She admitted that she’s not like others, but used this fact to advocate for herself, reminding the audience that what’s more important than surface appearance is self-advocacy. As she declared herself “The Greatest Star” in one of the musical’s most iconic numbers, other characters began to acknowledge her stardom as well.
While Fanny achieved fame, she was quickly consumed by it, and those close to her worried about its effects. When Fanny entered a long and complicated relationship with the charismatic socialite and swindler Nicky Arnstein, played by LSA sophomore Sohil Apte, the two sang a series of songs that depicted their struggle to find their identities apart from each other. By the end, Fanny found clarity back on the stage, with a triumphant reprise of the iconic tune “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”
Storyline aside, serving as the base for the musical’s progression was the 21-piece orchestra led by Andrew Gerace — the Music Director and LSA and Music, Theatre & Dance senior — seen swaying along to the music as he conducted. One of the musical’s most exuberant moments was the number “Cornet Man,” with trumpeter Ryan Venora, a Music, Theatre & Dance junior, onstage interacting with Fanny. Blasting like a big band, the pit orchestra showcased full energy as Fanny imitated the trumpet sounds above.
Another show highlight came about midway through the first act with the number “His Love Makes Me Beautiful” — a scene that brought in stunning solos by Meyer and Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore Alexandra Humphreys. When Meyer struggled comically up a set of stairs — a possible nod to the stairs in the 1968 film with Barbra Streisand — as a pregnant bride, her interactions with an appalled Humphreys were priceless.
As the bridal scene came to an end, figures in black swiftly wheeled the stairs offstage, bringing in simple panels to transition into Fanny’s dressing room. These stagehands were a reminder of yet another team driving the production forward. The mechanism of actors onstage, musicians in the pit and stagehands worked like clockwork on the Power Center stage. With only a two-and-a-half-hour running time and a relentlessly moving orchestra below the stage, MUSKET’s production staff, completely student-run, made a lasting impression, allowing the cast to shine.
“Funny Girl” marked MUSKET’s much-anticipated return to the Power Center since halting live shows in March of last year. While the theatre group had kept itself busy at the height of the pandemic with well-produced virtual stagings of “Bright Star” and “Newsies,” viewers last weekend laid witness to a full range of expression from an unmasked, in-person cast, with ample distance between stage and audience.
In the words of MUSKET’s Music, Theatre & Dance senior Jonas McMullen, whose Director’s Note graces the playbill: “We are reminded why we love to gather in the theatre, when we could not for so long.” After all the time that has passed, the celebratory nature of MUSKET’s return seemed to make their year-long hiatus well worth the wait.
Daily Arts Writer Priscilla Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.