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Hartford holds a special place in ‘Funny Girl’ star’s heart

When it was announced that Katerina McCrimmon would star in the national tour of the Broadway revival of “Funny Girl,” which played at The Bushnell in Hartford from June 18 to 23, theater fans were shocked because she was a virtual unknown.

She was no stranger to Hartford, where she appeared in a spirited production of Eugene O’Neill’s comedy “Ah, Wilderness!” in 2021.

That play is set around the same time as ‘Funny Girl’, and in Melia Bensussen’s production, McCrimmon’s character even got to perform some unique musical numbers.

Hartford remembers McCrimmon, but she also remembers Hartford. Hearing ducks quacking in the background of a phone call, she asked, “Are you in Elizabeth Park?” She remembers that park as a refuge when she wanted to relax after a long rehearsal of “Ah, Wilderness!”

The star of the upcoming national tour ‘Funny Girl’ may be a newcomer to Broadway audiences, but not to Connecticut theatergoers

“Elizabeth Park was my safe place,” says McCrimmon, who grew up in Florida and now lives in New York City.

“That show was so special. I sang and played guitar on stage. What a nice experience,” she said. “It was also my first performance after the pandemic and the first performance at Hartford Stage after the pandemic. We all did our best to get everything back on track. Hartford was such a huge growth experience for me.”

When it is suggested that her audition for the “Funny Girl” tour must have been phenomenal, she replies that “it felt cosmic. It felt like I was locking Fanny up.”

Katerina McCrimmon with Jackson Grove (left) and Rodney Thompson during the first national tour of the Broadway revival of

Matthew Murphy/MurphyMade

Katerina McCrimmon with Jackson Grove (left) and Rodney Thompson during the first national tour of the Broadway revival of “Funny Girl.” (Matthew Murphy/MurphyMade)

She’s talking about Fanny Brice, the real star of the vaudeville stage, radio and movies in the 1920s and 1930s. Brice, whose best-known character was troublesome child Baby Snooks, died in 1951. ‘Funny Girl’ – with book by Hollywood screenwriter Isobel Lennert, music by Jule Styne (whose other musicals include ‘Gypsy’, ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’) and “Subways Are for Sleeping”) and lyrics by Bob Merrill (who wrote the lyrics for the musical version of “Ah, Wilderness!” called “Take Me Along”) – premiered in 1964.

McCrimmon even remembers the mother of an ex-boyfriend of hers saying she would one day play Fanny Brice.

“Funny girl” is often associated with names that were better known than Fanny Brice is today. Barbra Streisand played Fanny in the original Broadway and film versions. Movie and TV star Beanie Feldstein starred in the Broadway revival when it opened in 2022, and was succeeded in the role just six months later by Lea Michelle, whose character on the TV series “Glee” not only adored Streisand, but also starred in a fictional Broadway series. revival of “Funny Girl” in the show’s fifth season.

There’s a name star in the touring cast, but it’s ’70s pop star Melissa Manchester, who plays Fanny’s mother.

A vaudeville-friendly ensemble dance number

Matthew Murphy/MurphyMade

An ensemble dance number from the vaudeville-friendly “Funny Girl” (Matthew Murphy/MurphyMade)

The recent Broadway revival provides the basis for this tour. It has the same director (Michael Mayer, best known on Broadway for directing rock musicals like “American Idiot,” “Head Over Heels” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) and uses a new adaptation of the script by Harvey Fierstein (whose many Broadway productions include screen-to-stage adaptations of “Kinky Boots,” “Newsies” and “La Cage Aux Folles”).

McCrimmon is unaffected by the previous interpretations. She didn’t see the Broadway revival until she had already gotten the part and hadn’t seen the Streisand film since she was a child. “I had nothing to go off of,” she said, which allowed her to create her own vision of Fanny Brice, whose vintage radio shows and films McCrimmon explored online.

McCrimmon noted that the tour is very similar to the Broadway production, with some scenes edited a little faster. “The audience loved it. People say it’s the best touring production to ever come to their city.”

Part of the fun, McCrimmon added, is being able to visit Hartford again.

“I’m having the time of my life,” she says.

“Funny Girl,” with music by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill and a book by Isobel Lennart updated by Harvey Fierstein, runs June 18-23 at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. $38-$148. bushnell.org.