Metro Weekly

Katerina McCrimmon Shines in ‘Funny Girl’ (Review)

Newcomer Katerina McCrimmon puts her own zesty stamp on the 'Funny Girl' tour, now at the Kennedy Center.

Funny Girl: Katerina McCrimmon and Stephen Mark Lukas - Photo: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade
Funny Girl: Katerina McCrimmon and Stephen Mark Lukas – Photo: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Fanny Brice really was the greatest star, at least at the Ziegfeld Follies. The famously expressive singer-comedian headlined the premier Broadway theatrical revue for years in the 1910s, ’20s, and ’30s, then segued to radio stardom, motion pictures, and a hit-making recording career highlighted by signature songs “Second-Hand Rose” and “My Man.”

But Fanny appeared in only a few films of note, and folks don’t much listen to her music anymore. Her legacy as a performer has largely been supplanted by the popularity of Funny Girl, the musical that’s loosely based on her life and that the whole world associates with a different funny girl from New York City. 

As someone who appreciates Fanny, especially her songs, I look to a new Funny Girl — like the touring production of Michael Mayer’s well-received, if rocky, recent Broadway run — to give me more than Barbra. I want to see a portrayal that also evokes Fanny’s talents and singular appeal, in service to Jule Styne and Bob Merrill’s so singable score, and Isobel Lennart’s solid rags-to-riches love story.

Leading the tour, currently in its opening engagement at the Kennedy Center Opera House, Katerina McCrimmon as Fanny Brice gave me what I wanted. Funny, quick, and blessed with powerhouse pipes, McCrimmon is a delight, capturing the verve and oddball confidence that were Brice’s bread and butter, while still creating her own unique Funny Girl.

In her “I’m the Greatest Star,” McCrimmon makes her voice heard, with impressive energy and sustained notes capping Fanny’s debut at Keeney’s vaudeville house. The performer also, on occasion, hits notes that sound like Streisand in a way that’s not displeasing. 

Interestingly, to the ears of this former Glee watcher, McCrimmon’s voice never once reminded me of Lea Michele, who established herself as Fanny, replacing Beanie Feldstein in the show’s 2022-23 Broadway run that spawned this tour.


Based on the wigs and make-up, the casting department must have been glad to find someone who could look this much like Lea Michele, but McCrimmon’s Fanny feels like hers. She sings her own “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” And she flows beautifully singing “People,” though that’s the song where her performance, with seeming inevitability, most echoes Streisand’s classic version.

McCrimmon also creates a compelling romantic pair with dashing Stephen Mark Lukas as high roller Nicky Arnstein, Fanny’s lover-turned-husband. They have great timing with their dinner-night repartée — the revised script is by Harvey Fierstein — leading into “You Are Woman, I Am Man.”

Even in Nicky’s low moments, Lukas warmly embodies the charm of this debonair gambler in his top hat and tails, with manicured nails. Fanny can’t resist, and we can see why.

It’s not because he’s the greatest dancer, as Lukas demonstrates in the show’s somewhat discordant take on Nicky’s jazzy “Temporary Arrangement.” Although, the dancing in general is top-notch, with Ellenore Scott’s fun choreography crisply executed by an ensemble that makes all the dancing a pleasure.

Some numbers are saved by the dancing, like the strongly-tapped “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat.” Izaiah Montaque Harris, playing Fanny’s longtime friend and collaborator Eddie, serves up several exciting solos of Ayodele Casel’s tap choreography.

The tapping registers more clearly than the lyrics at times, with some performers’ vocals muffled in the sound mix. The issue is most noticeable with the esteemed ladies portraying Fanny’s folks from her neighborhood — Mrs. Strakosh (Eileen T’Kaye, who’s fabulous), Mrs. Meeker (Cindy Chang), and Fanny’s saloon matron mother Mrs. Brice (Grammy winner Melissa Manchester).

Funny Girl: Melissa Manchester and Katerina McCrimmon - Photo: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade
Funny Girl: Melissa Manchester and Katerina McCrimmon – Photo: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

That wisecracking trio contributes more to summoning the show’s early 20th-century atmosphere than David Zinn’s set, which summons more of a “Really, that’s it?” The array of digitally printed flats and backdrops picturing locations of 1900s New York, from theaters to train stations, suggest there might eventually be a big scenic reveal. No such luck.

The production’s fortune lies instead in its beloved music, Fanny and Nicky’s troubled love story, which feels heartbreakingly genuine in this telling, and, of course, in the show’s great star, McCrimmon, who, with more than a little courage, takes on a second-hand role with first-rate finesse.

Funny Girl (★★★☆☆) runs through July 14 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. Tickets are $49 to $189. Call 202-467-4600, or visit


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