The Paper Mill Playhouse has announced casting for its spring production of the Jule Styne-Bob Merrill musical, Funny Girl. Barbra Streisand’s original star vehicle on Broadway, Funny Girl features a book by Isobel Lennart. The show starts previews April 4 with a press opening tentatively scheduled for April 6. Funny Girl runs through May 20.
In development since March of last year, the Paper Mill revival will feature a Jersey Girl in the title role. Legendary comedienne and Ziegfeld star Fanny Brice (1891-1951) will be played by Leslie Kritzer, in her biggest role to date. Kritzer was featured in the Off-Broadway revival of Godspell where she sang “Learn Your Lessons Well.” She played the title role in Evita last year at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn, New York. A graduate of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Kritzer was raised near Milburn's Paper Mill Playhouse, in neighboring Livingston, New Jersey. She currently resides in Hoboken and has begun training extensively for her role.
The two other main characters in this biographical account of Brice’s life will be played by Robert Cuccioli (as Nicky Arnstein) and AMC Movie Classics host Bob Dorian (as legendary showman Florenz Ziegfeld).
Paper Mill spokesperson Charlie Siedenburg said that hundreds of actresses and singers had auditioned for the role of Fanny Brice over the past several months. Brice was Brooklyn born and raised and aspired to stardom from an early age. A gifted singer and comedienne, she performed on an amateur stage as early as 14. Brice was discovered in 1910 at the age of 17 by Ziegfeld who signed her to a contract despite the fact that she was still a minor. Brice’s career extended from Vaudeville to Broadway, film, radio and even the very early days of television.
The Paper Mill revival will be helmed by Robert Johannson. The creative team for Funny Girl comprises set designer Michael Anania, costume designer David Murin, choreographer Michael Lichtefeld and musical director Tom Helm. Fanny Brice’s real-life signature song, “My Man” will not be included in the production, but many of Styne and Merrill’s memorable songs from the stage and film versions of the show will, including “I’m the Greatest Star,” “People,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and “The Music That Makes Me Dance.”
—By Murdoch McBride