Just saw FUNNY GIRL for the first time…

Or, oy!

…and it was weird, man. I’m gonna put all my thoughts in a list, because that’s the kind of time and energy I’ve got this week.

  • Reminiscent of other musicals of the era in that the first act contained much more singing, and was much more lighthearted, than the second. But I think 1776 is much better, composition- and adaptation-wise, and I will always consider it one of the tops, no matter what the stupid AFI says.
  • People don’t do this show, right? No one mounts productions these days? Because any actress in the role of Fanny wouldn’t really be playing Fanny Brice, she’d be playing Barbra Streisand, and not succeeding. Even the Marias (The Sound of Music, West Side Story) have a certain interpretive range, whereas this role seems so closely linked to her originator as to be inextricable.
  • I suppose all that is because Babs’ rapid rise to dizzying heights mirrors Fanny’s ascent almost exactly. On many levels, this was an autobiographical show. So we should probably hold off on productions for the next hundred years, because another career repetition isn’t likely to happen before then.
  • I feel like this is the idea of musicals that people who dislike musicals have in their heads. Now the scrappy heroine sings an “I want” song (and another, and another); now she tries to convince somebody to believe in her; now the side characters do that talk-singing thing about said scrappy heroine. It really hits all the beats, for better or worse, doesn’t it?
  • She is hilarious. Her speech inflection is on point every time. And she looks like she’s having so much fun up there, it’s impossible not to have fun with her.
  • She seems to exist out of time. Not only is the action not set in the ‘60s, but Babs doesn’t seem to really be part of the ‘60s. You know what I mean? The era was defined by these camps that she didn’t participate in; she was a host unto herself. It feels like she belongs to another era, due both to the business she got started in and the way she became famous. Her success story is what every girl who falls in love with musical theatre aspires to. (Every girl? Or am I projecting?)
  • I read that “People” was almost cut after the preliminary round of previews because it wasn’t consistent with Fanny’s character. I agree with that assessment—it doesn’t make sense when Fanny sings it—but my solution would be to simply give it to another character. Her mother, maybe. How many shows’ most iconic numbers are sung by non-principals? “Climb Every Mountain,” from The Sound of Music, sung by the Mother Superior (who is also given “My Favorite Things” as a duet with Maria in the stage version, although we don’t acknowledge the stage version on this blog, because the movie is the version, you’re welcome). “Something Wonderful,” from The King and I, sung by Lady Thiang. “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” from Carousel, sung by…see, I don’t even remember her name! Case in point. I seem to only be able to come up with Rodgers and Hammerstein examples, but whatever. The principals have enough singing to do (especially in this show, jeez). Spread the wealth.
  • This may get me excommunicated, but I’m not sure these songs are very good songs. Considering the Jule Styne catalogue alone, I find this score to be a second-rate Gypsy; and considering the Broadway production’s contemporaries—and, incidentally, Babs’ early film career—I find this show to be a second-rate Hello, Dolly! (a film she should not have been involved in anyway, she was tOo YoUnG fOr ThE pArT). In any event, re: my note above, I feel these songs are trying too hard to be Musical Numbers. Particularly the solo/intimate numbers, but those form the majority of the score, so…
  • Surely this is not the context for the much-lauded (overrated) “Don’t Rain on My Parade”? Surely she’s not about to throw away the career she had so single-mindedly pursued and has so recently secured to go get on a boat with some man?! Very disappointing.
  • And here is where the show becomes, in full, about her relationship with (and to) Nick. This is not what I signed up for. I want to see her be the funny girl onstage! But now she can’t enjoy any of it because he should be there for her and he isn’t. Men.
  • So, at long last, the great Omar Sharif. The first film of his I’ve seen. I like him, he’s funny too. I get good vibes from him; I hope he was one of the good Hollywood guys. I feel like you can tell something about an actor’s personality even from their performance as someone else—like you know how Clark Gable must have just been an egomaniac in real life? Anyway, maybe I’ll have to see this fellow in more things.
  • What an idiot. Turns down a deal to get in on opening a club because he lets his pride get in the way. Men.
  • Babs is such an interesting singer. I’ve never known what to make of her. One second I love what she’s doing, the next I find her intonation just awful. This happens multiple times over the course of every song. What’s up with that??
  • But then, what am I gonna do, not watch her in everything else? Like that’s gonna happen.

Image: the movie poster

Published by Cecilia Gigliotti

Cecilia Gigliotti (she/her) lives in Berlin with a beloved ukulele named Uke Skywalker. She co-hosts and produces the music commentary podcast POD SOUNDS. Her free time goes toward dancing, reading books new and old, drawing cartoons, taking city walks, and devoting too much thought to the foibles of her heroes. Connect with her on Instagram (@c_m_giglio, @ceciliagphotography, @pod_sounds_podcast) and check out her portfolio (linktr.ee/ceciliagigliotti).

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