Funny Girl comes to Creighton

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September 25th, 2012

Omaha, NE – A “Funny Girl” is coming to Creighton University.

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Barbra Streisand performing Don’t Rain on My Parade is perhaps the most memorable scene from the 1968 film Funny Girl. Streisand, who also starred in the Broadway production, portrayed Fanny Brice, a real-life singer and actress who rose to fame in the 1930s as a vaudeville and burlesque performer in The Ziegfeld Follies.

“She was really one of the best known comediennes in her day,” said Stephen Sheftz, head of musical theater at Creighton University. Sheftz is directing the music of Creighton’s production of Funny Girl, which opens this week.

A glamor shot of Fanny Brice from 1910. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

The play is based on Brice’s groundbreaking contribution to the world of comedy and, in particular, women in comedy, along with her turbulent personal life and scandal-inducing string of marriages. “She was a quirky personality,” Sheftz said. “The show is not all comic as the title suggests. There are some really heartfelt moments.”

Sheftz said Brice was a comic in public life, but her private life was filled with personal challenges. Brice was married three times in her life, and all three marriages failed. Her first lasted just a few days, and her second began and ended in prison. Brice married professional gambler and con man Nicky Arnstein, who served time in Sing Sing for fraud, and was sentenced again to federal prison for theft after the two were married.

Fanny Brice performing one of her most famous comic characters, Baby Snooks. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

Sheftz said Arnstein is depicted in Funny Girl, but his crimes and mistreatment of Brice are whitewashed in the play. Arnstein, who lived to see himself portrayed on Broadway, reportedly threatened to sue if he was poorly portrayed. Brice did not live to see herself on stage. She died in 1951 at age 59.

Barbra Streisand won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Brice, and many of the songs in the show became synonymous with her career. Sheftz said Creighton’s production includes a cast of theater students along with senior Ariel Talacko who he says has risen to the challenge of Brice’s portrayal. “She’s in something crazy like 19 out of 23 scenes,” he said, “and carries the majority of music herself.”

“For any performer, that would be a daunting task,” he said. “And Ariel has taken it and worked diligently to be confident, and she’s doing a fantastic job.”

Funny Girl opens at Creighton University Thursday evening and runs with weekend performances through October 7th. The play is directed by

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