WINDY CITY TIMES
by Catey Sullivan
This article shared 3635 times since Wed Jan 13, 2010
Music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, Book by Isobel Lennart. At: Drury Lane-Oak Brook,
10 Drury, Oakbrook Terrace. Phone: 630-530-0111;$29-$38. Runs through: March 7
After a rejuvenating run of superlative splendor with its past half-dozen or so shows, Oak Brook's Drury Lane Theatre loses momentum with a curiously flat production of Funny Girl. The score is gorgeous ( "People," "Don't Rain on My Parade," "I Am the Greatest Star" ) but the cast merely adequate in telling the story of vaudeville star Fanny Brice ( Sara Sheperd ) . Adequate doesn't do justice to the leading lady of the title, and while Sheperd has the belt the score requires, she doesn't have the irresistible comic appeal the role demands. Director William Osetek, so crucial to the Drury Lane's resurgence since Executive Producer Kyle DeSantis took the place over a few years back, fails to illuminate one of the 20th century's greatest, greatest stars.
Moreover, there are problems with the production values, and these are substantial enough to make Funny Girl more enervating than invigorating. First, there's the set design, defined by towering walls of brick that dwarf the cast and leach emotional intense scenes of crucial intimacy. Put a cavernous backdrop behind the heart-to-heart tete-a-tetes between Fanny and her ne'er do well husband Nicky Arnstein ( Paul Anthony Stewart ) and you get a scene defined by empty space and distance rather than up close, urgent immediacy.
Also falling vexingly short are the Ziegfeld Follies scenes. Ziegfeld was synonymous with the sort of dazzling, over-the-top eye candy that would make Andrew Lloyd Webber look like a minimalist; if you're going to stage a scene from his Follies, you need to dial up the spectacle to gorgeous and garish levels of sheer extravagancethink the Rockettes to the 10th power outfitted in costumes that marry the aesthetic of Liberace with Cirque du Soleil. That doesn't happen here. First, the chorus that showcases Brice is far too thinthere simply aren't enough people on stage to create the jaw-dropping excess of the Follies. Second, the costuming doesn't begin to reach the levels of opulence required. The outrageous lavishness that was Ziegfeld's signature seems cut-rate here, and cut-rate Follies is an oxymoron if ever there was one.
Finally, there's the plot, propelled by Jules Styne's music, Bob Merrill's lyrics and Isobel Lenmart's book ( based on her original story ) . Brice becomes a star fairly quicklytoo quicklywhich leaves a first act that's singularly static. There's nothing much at stake once Brice wins over Ziegfeld. Sure her romance with Arnstein is difficult, but as played out here, the difficulty isn't enough to sustain a satisfying dramatic arc. And without giving anything away, the crisis at the end of the first act is a cheatwhich is to say, its already been resolved ( off-stage ) by the time the audience returns for the second half of the show.
Minus a gripping conflict, one yearns all the more for more of Ziegfeld's extraordinary headdresses. Alas, they're simply not here.
This article shared 3635 times since Wed Jan 13, 2010
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