Tuesday, July 29, 2014

FUNNY GIRL • Stray Dog Theatre

Stray Dog closes its season with Bob Merrill and Jule Styne's "Funny Girl", very loosely based on the life of turn-of-the-century actress, singer and radio star, Fanny Brice. This story of a young Jewish girl from the Lower East Side and her rise to stardom is heavily associated with Barbra Streisand, who originated the role onstage in 1964 and starred in the 1968 film adaptation, but Lindsey Jones puts her own stamp on the score with a reliably strong voice, anchoring the show. Isobel Lennart's book (perhaps the weakest part of the musical) narrows the focus of Brice's life to her career in the Ziegfeld Follies and her marriage to charismatic gambler, Nick Arnstein, played here by Jeffrey M. Wright.

We start at the dressing table of Fanny, who's waiting for her husband's return after his release from prison. From there the story unfolds as a flashback with her mother, Mrs Brice, (Laura Kyro) and her friends playing a game of poker. Mrs. Strakosh (Lynda Levy Clark) and Mrs. Brice try to discourage a teenaged Fanny, who by that time had already worked in vaudeville, from aiming for higher show business dreams because of her plain looks. With the encouragement of her friend, a dancer with a crush named Eddie Ryan (Zach Wachter), and her own determination and talent, Fanny wins over Florenz Ziegfeld (Michael Monsey) and lands a job in the Follies. She first meets Nick before that at Keeney's Music Hall when he visits her backstage. This handsome gambler is willing to bet on Fanny and her career, and Fanny is immediately taken with him. As Fanny's star rises, her relationship and eventual marriage to Nick becomes complicated.

Friday, July 18, 2014


The St. Louis Actors’ Studio's LaBute New Theater Festival, featuring premiere one-act plays, began its second appearance last Friday after a successful debut last year. Over 250 world-wide submissions were whittled down to seven finalists and three high school finalist that will be presented over the next month. The first set of four finalists will be presented from July 11th through the 20th and the second set of three begin on the 25th and run through August 3rd, with the high school finalists presented as free stage readings on the 26th. The festival's namesake, playwright and screenwriter Neil LaBute, has also once again written a world premiere one-act for the festival, “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”, that will be presented nightly.

We kick off the night with Steve Karp's comedy, "Rubbas", directed by Milton Zoth. And it's rubbers -- as in prophylactics.