Some shows will forever be linked with the stars who defined their leading roles, like Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp in "The Sound of Music" and Barbra Streisand as Fannie Brice in "Funny Girl."
For the actors or actresses who take on those already well-established characters in subsequent productions, giving the audience an equally memorable performance can be daunting.
Not so for actress Nickie Hilton, currently starring as Fannie Brice in Thunder Bay Theatre's version of the classic musical, "Funny Girl." From the moment she steps on the stage through the full two hours of the production, Hilton is both phenomenal and captivating.
Hilton gives Fannie that dose of chutzpah that makes her supremely confident of her ability to succeed even when others doubt. Hilton's also got that innate knack for comedy and a full range of expressions that were vital to Fannie's success as an entertainer. And she possesses an outstanding voice that enables her to belt out such "Funny Girl" standards as "People."
"Funny Girl" isn't a one-person show, however, and TBT receives lots of other bright performances and moments from its large cast. For those who don't recall the details of the show or have never seen it, the storyline follows the unlikely show biz success of the real life Fannie Brice, who as a star in the Ziegfeld Follies became the darling of New York City. Along the way, she struck up a steadfast friendship with Eddie Ryan and fell hard for the sophisticated and handsome Nick Arnstein.
Company member Derek Spack and TBT newcomer Erik Johnson are equally entertaining in their roles as Eddie and Nick. Spack, who learned some nifty tap dancing for the show, lends a vaudevillian feel to his character. Johnson proves totally convincing in looks and manor as the debonair Nick, who wins and loses many a fortune with his gambling ways.
Carol Rundell, another current core company member, does a great job as Fannie's mother, including on the song, "Who Taught Her Everything," that she sings with Eddie (Spack). The song laments how Fannie will forget them both now that she's made it to Broadway.
Bruce Michaud cuts a dashing figure as Florenz Ziegfeld, the power-welding show producer who helped make a star out of Fannie. One of the show's many fun scenes has Ziegfeld enduring Fannie's renegade ways when she performs a supposedly romantic number, "His Love Makes Me Beautiful," as part of the Ziegfeld Follies. On her own, Fannie turns Ziegfeld's number into a classic comedy routine by ending it as a conspicuously pregnant bride.
Kirsten Bohlen, a member of the show's ensemble and TBT youth acting class, gets a moment to shine in "His Love Makes Me Beautiful," which showcases her sterling voice. Another bright moment comes from core company member Tracie Papin, who provides an awesome horn solo to "Coronet Man."
JoLee Greer, also a youth acting class student, amuses in her role as the ultra-nosy Mrs. Strakosh, a neighbor from Fannie's old stomping grounds on Henry Street. Likeable performances also are turned in by Linda Suneson as Emma, Zach Clement as John, the stage manager, and Scott Edgar as Keeny.
There are about a dozen others who combine their talents to create a show that's thoroughly entertaining: Dana Glomski, Monica Smith, Travis Atkinson, Chelsea Prettyman, Kendra McInerney, Ashlyn Stachlewitz, Monica McClendon, Mandy McDonald, Rebecca Lawrence, Lena Witt, Victoria Mott and John Martin. Theatre goers are sure to like "Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat," a big Follies number in which many of them are featured.
Hats-off to Artistic Director J.R. Rodriguez, Music Director Bunny Lyon and Choreographer Dodi Lance for a great start to TBT's summer season. Remaining performances of "Funny Girl" are June 22-26 and June 29-July 3 with show times at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.
For reservations, call the TBT box office at 354-2267.