Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Kenley Helps "Funny Girl" by Adding Song, "My Man"

Cleveland Press June 5, 1967

For those who wondered -- and there were many -- how an honest-to-gosh Fanny Brice song would sound in "Funny Girl," the musical pseudo-biography of the Ziegfield star, the answer is that it sounds good enough to make the rest of the Jule Styne score pretty pallid.

Producer John Kenley opened his production of "Funny Girl" in Warren's Packard Music Hall for several preview performances starting Saturday night. Regular opening is tomorrow evening.

The song with which Fanny Brice is most firmly associated, "My Man," is interpolated into the score near the end of the second act, just after the marriage of Miss Brice and Nicky Arnstein has hit the rocks.

With it, "Funny Girl," formerly a one-tune musical, becomes a two-tune show. The other song, the best of the Styne score, is "People" which is in the first act, a position that permits the rest of the show to go down hill even faster.

Starring in the Kenley Players production are Shari Lewis in the title role, Julius LaRosa as Arnstein and Molly Picon as Mrs. Brice.

Shari Lewis -- a skillful performer, good singer and excellent comedienne -- plays the role with few if any attempts to imitate Barbra Streisand, but with comic bits and a song styling of her own.

ONLY ONE TROUBLE with her in the part. There are frequent references in dialog and lyrics to this gal with a funny face, the comic who isn't pretty -- 'if a girl isn't pretty, like Miss Atlantic City" -- is the way one song starts.

Now Miss Lewis IS pretty, far too beautiful to fit the character. Oh, well -- it's nicer this way.

As an actor, crooner LaRosa may not cause Richard Burton any sleepless nights, but he has enough poise and stage presence to do this sort of thing more often.

Arnstein's songs sound a little better than they did, now that I've heard someone with a voice sing them. As for the love scenes, he seemed a little awkward at first, but he warmed up in the clinches.

MOLLY PICON GIVES THE SHOW a decided lift. This woman has got to be the greatest Jewish Momma of all time. Her interpretation of this role is less that of Mrs. Brice than it is of Molly Picon as she dances across the stage in an old vaudeville routine, swoops and glides and so help me kicks up her heels and does a somersault. And I'm told that she's all of 72.

Rudy Tronto and Charles Cagle, Kenley regulars, give strong support as Eddie Ryan and Ziegfield. "Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat," the show's big production number has been handsomely choreographed and opulently presented.

"Funny Girl" is a fair start for the summer season.