Thunder Bay Theatre starts off its summer season this week in style with a classic musical celebrating the life of entertainer Fannie Brice.
"Funny Girl," which starred the incomparable Barbra Streisand in both the 1964 hit Broadway show and the 1968 film that snagged her an Oscar, opens Wednesday for a three-week run. Show dates are June 15-July 3 with performances on Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
The semi-autobiographical tale chronicles Fannie Brice's meteoric rise to fame and her stormy relationship with Nick, a wealthy and charming gambler. With a parade of great tunes and dance numbers, "Funny Girl" takes Fannie from her start as a gawky Brooklyn teen fast-talking her way into show business to her becoming the toast of New York to the unraveling of her personal life.
TBT core company member Nickie Hilton takes on the plum role of Fannie.
"I'm loving it. It's really fun," said Hilton. "Fanny was an amazing woman, extremely talented and very driven. She didn't understand the word 'no.' This is the biggest role I've played in awhile."
Hilton will sing about 13 songs for the show, either as solos or as part of group numbers, including her favorite in the show, "I'm the Greatest Star."
Music by Jule Styne
Lyrics by Bob Merrill
Book by Isobel Lennart
June 15-July 3
Wednesday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, 2 p.m.
Box office: 354-2267
Fellow company member Derek Spack appears as Eddie Ryan, Fannie's best friend on Broadway. Conceptually, Director J.R. Rodriguez has elected to have Spack's character come off as a vaudevillian sort of narrator of Fannie's life.
"Eddie's the one who has been with Fannie Brice pretty much through her whole theatre career," Spack said. "He's a person telling the story, but he's not really a narrator. He's the one who already knows the story and it's Eddie's version of the story of Fannie Brice."
John Martin and Kendra McInerney, both core company performers, are a part of the show's ensemble, doing singing, dancing and several bit parts. Like the rest of the company, they also have been heavily involved in pulling all the details of the show together such as the set.
The newest member of TBT's company is Chelsea Prettyman, a 2010 theatre graduate of Missouri Southern State University. Most recently, she performed at the Snow Camp Outdoor Drama in Snow Camp, N.C.
For "Funny Girl," Prettyman not only appears in the ensemble, she is the costumer as well. With 22 people cast in the show and multiple costume changes for most, she's had her work cut out for her.
"I'm very grateful to just be in the ensemble," Prettyman said. "With 22 people and on average five costumes each, there are at least 150 costumes. We did borrow some from Civic Theatre, who were nice enough to let us use some of theirs."
Others cast in the show include Linda Suneson as Emma, Carol Rundell as Mrs. Brice, JoLee Greer as Mrs. Strakosh, Erik Johnson as Nick Arnstein, Bruce Michaud as Florenz Ziegfeld, Zach Clement as John, Scott Edgar as Keeny, Dana Glomski as Mrs. O'Malley, Monica Smith as Mrs. Meeker, Travis Atkinson and Tracie Papin in a variety of roles, Ashlyn Stachlewitz as Bubbles, Monica McClendon as Polly, Kirsten Bohlen as Maude, Mandy McDonald as Cathy, Lena Witt as Mrs. Winston and Victoria Mott as Eloise.
Dodi Lance is serving as choreographer for the show.
As an added bonus, Rodriguez has brought in Chris Hill, a guest lighting expert, to work on the show's lighting design. For the last six years, Hill as done lighting production for Harpo Studios in Chicago, the company owned by Oprah Winfrey that produced her television show. Now that Oprah's show has ceased production, Hill will be returning to Chicago soon to begin gearing up for this fall's Rosie O'Donnell Show.
In the meantime, Hill has been doing both lighting repairs and design work for "Funny Girl."
"This will probably be the first show in a long time where all of the lights work," Hill said. "There will be a lot more color and a lot more options because a lot of the light positions are just now being able to be used again. Hopefully, visually there will be something a little new and different for those are came to TBT in the recent past."
A long-time colleague of Rodriguez, Hill also worked on the lighting for TBT's spring production of "Guys on Ice."
Reservations for "Funny Girl" can be made by calling the box office at 354-2267.