Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hello Gorgeous

Warning: This is a musical theatre post. I call Barbra Streisand "Babs" and I talk about belting and a woman named Fanny, with absolutely no irony and no attempt to hide the light of my musical loving heart under a bushel. If it is too much for you, I understand. I'll smell you next round!

I am a big old geek for Funny Girl. I know, it is beyond cliche', that the awkward and silly theatre girl would love that big Babs-filled musical about the tragic comedienne, Fanny Brice - but there you have it. I love the mess out of it, and yes, my heart breaks for Fanny, and yes, I have stood my underwear in my bedroom at 2am and sung the title song, with tears streaming down my face, amazed at my own brilliance- until the cat comes around the corner and stares up at me with "What fresh hell is this?" eyes.

I have heard tell that there is a revival, starring Ms Lauren Ambrose, of Six Feet Under fame. Like most people, I am surprised, but very interested to see what she'll bring to the table. And here is a little bit of truth telling, followed by an explanation, and then I am moving on. I am so very glad that we dodged the Glee bullet. Now, this may steam some people's mustaches to hear that I am not a fan of Lea Michelle's seemingly neverending campaign to play this role, but frankly, I am not interested in shallow Barbra Streisand imitations. Perhaps this is a conscious choice on the behalf of Ms Michelle, seeing how she is currently playing a naive teenager with stars in her eyes and a pop rendered showtune in her heart. Most teenage actors start out imitating a performance instead of interpreting a character. So, I'll give her the benefit of a doubt that this was what she is trying to capture- nonetheless, I am super happy I do not have to witness her pull faces and fake tears throughout "My Man"*.

I really can't blame young actresses wanting to claim a little bit of that original performance for their own. It truly was iconic. But honestly- have you seen/heard the real Ms Fania Borach, aka Fanny Brice? Several of the songs in the musical, Funny Girl, were real standards of Ms Brice's. For true!

A quick background for those of you who don't know what the doo doo I am talking about: Fanny Brice was a real woman.She was a comedienne, singer, theater, film and radio actress in the early part of the 20th century. She was most famous for her time spent as a performer in the Ziegfeld Follies and her radio career that she had up until her death at age fifty nine.

Thirteen years later, a young unknown named Barbra Streisand blew everyone away with her portrayal of Ms Brice in the stage and later film musical, Funny Girl, which centered on Fanny's rise to fame, while her personal and romantic life tragically crumbled around her. Like any biopic/musical- it was expanded upon and fictionalized, but one thing was definitely true - Fanny spent most of her adult years in love with a gentleman who was more sponge than man. I'm telling ya- look it up. It is not uncommon that a successful comedienne would have a tragic love life, but Fanny's is the most famous story and to this day, the title song still kills me.

Please, find me a character actress who hasn't felt like Fanny in her personal life at least once and I will buy you drink. Two drinks, even. I know I have come out of a few relationships with this song lodged in the back of my mind. Sue me. (Please don't sue me. Blood, turnips, you get the picture.)

A few months ago I found a copy of one of Ms Brice's comedy albums based on her most famous character, Baby Snooks, but was unable to purchase it at the time. Thanks to the interweb and youtube, however, I can dig up all of her old hits, performed by the funny girl herself.

These are ones that also appear in the musical Funny Girl. It is interesting not so much to compare the two performances, but to see how Streisand took these original numbers and filled them out, while still staying true to the real person.


And of course, I would be loath to neglect to mention her most famous number, "My Man". The depth of feeling presented in this one song truly allows you into her private life, where things simply were not that "funny".

Years after her death, Barbra Streisand took this song, made it her own heart wrenching and belt-tastic number, and a legend was (re)born...  

*This makes the bold assumption that I could ever afford to go see this production. Oh- poverty** and insomnia has made me delusional.
**Poverty, she says. I've got my coffee and my netflix. I'll stop exaggerating my need for money. Unless you feel compelled to donate some. Well hey then, I'll gladly break out my Dickensian garb and do bell kicks while you drop coins into my pay pal account. Thank yer. Thank yer kindly.


Charcoal Renderings said...

I. Love. This. Post.

As an actor myself, I completely give you the room to geek out and fan-girl over musical theatre anything and therefore we are kindred spirits the end.

Also, while I do appreciate the talent that Lea Michele has to offer (also everybody and their mom tells me I could be her blonde sister) I would like to know that all of Broadway and Hollywood isn't being taken over by just ONE actress. She had Les Mis when she was 8, Spring Awakening from like 14-20, and now Glee and records on iTunes and cover shoots galore! I would like for her to, ya know, have a chance to breathe and not always be perfect at everything. Please. (I want a chance, too!)

And the youtube video that I saw of Lauren Ambrose singing 'My Man' with her jazz band was kind of funky and fabulous. I too am interested to see where she takes the role.

Jessica said...

Thank you! I saw the video too- she's not an amazing singer, but she's got personality galore! It should be a really different take on the character. But I am excited to see how it will all turn out.