'Funny Girl' opens Corn Stock's summer tent under the tent

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FunnyGirl
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Katie McLuckie admits to feeling a little intimidated about the role she is about play at Corn Stock Theatre. But she also is confident she will do the role great justice for audiences of “Funny Girl,” Corn Stock’s 2014 summer season opener starting Friday, May 30.

“I mean ‘Funny Girl’ is Barbra Streisand and everybody knows it. So playing Fanny Brice is kind of intimidating, but it is also exciting. I am so honored to get to do it,” McLuckie said.

“Everybody remembers Barbra, but I am trying to break free from that. I am not trying to do a Barbra Streisand impersonation. I am not playing Barbra Streisand playing Fanny Brice. I am playing Fanny Brice and I can’t wait to get in front of an audience with this show,” she said.

If you didn’t know or haven’t guessed, “Funny Girl” tells the story of legendary Broadway performer Fanny Brice and her life at the time she made it big in the Ziegfeld Follies and the trials she had to endure, including a tumultuous marriage to Nick Arnstein.

While it was a Broadway hit, it was the 1968 film by the same way that became best known and made Streisand a superstar.

Directed by Eldon Beever, “Funny Girl” opens at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and continues each night at 7:30 p.m. through Saturday, June 7 at Corn Stock’s tent in Upper Bradley Park. Tickets are on sale now for $18 for adults and $12 for students and they can be reserved by calling (309) 676-2196 or online at www.cornstocktheatre.com.

Beever said he wanted to direct “Funny Girl” for a couple reasons, including that it was a well-known but not often performed show. In fact, this will be the first time it has been done at Corn Stock.

“It’s not one of the big warhorse musicals out there that get done repeatedly, but it has a name that people know, mostly because of the movie. Still, Corn Stock had never done it and it hasn’t been performed a lot around here,” he said.

Beever speculated one reason for that is because unlike most musicals, “Funny Girl” doesn’t have an all-is-well happy ending. “It is not a happy musical, really. It has a lot of comedy in it but the end is kind of a downer. The most dramatic part of the show is at the end,” he said.

But it also is a show filled with songs people know, including People, Sadie Sadie and Don’t Rain on My Parade.”

It is also a star vehicle for whomever gets cast as Fanny, Beever said. He is thrilled with McLuckie holding that role for this production. “The role really is a tour-de-force. Without the character of Fanny Brice there is no show because she is in almost every scene. And Katie handles it beautifully. Her talent is remarkable,” he said.

As Nick Arnstein, Aaron Humphreys brings a sophistication to the stage to balance McLuckie’s Brice in their scenes together.

Other leading players are Cheri Beever as Fanny’s mother, Mrs. Brice, Larry Stratton as Flo Ziegfeld and Trev Neff as Eddie.

Choreography, a big part of “Funny Girl” with its four production numbers, is directed by Erica Franken. Gina Wright is music director and conductor of the 10 or 11 piece orchestra, including the cornet players who take the stage in one of the numbers. The many costumes are designed by Paula Graves and Jill Barr.

The 61st Season: Something for everybody

The 61st season at Corn Stock “is well-balanced, with something for everybody,” said Cindy Hoey, theatre manager. “We have two big musicals from the golden age of Broadway, a really sweet show that will surprise a lot of people, a new, big blockbuster making its area debut and one of finest comedies written. You really can’t go wrong with this one,” she added.

The comedy to which she referred is the Neil Simon classic “Lost in Yonkers.” Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1991 and the Tony Award for Best Play that same year, it is considered by many as the finest play written by the prolific Simon.

Directed by Amy Williams, “Lost in Yonkers” will be performed June 20 – June 28. Tickets will go on sale June 9 and, since it is a non-musical they cost $12 for adults and $10 for students. Tickets are $18 and $12 for musicals.

The third show of the season will be “Guys and Dolls,” the 1955 musical written by Frank Loesser, Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling. The show was selected for the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, but the prize was taken away because of Abe Burrows’ troubles with Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee. It did win the 1951 Tony Award for Best Musical.

Directed by Chip Joyce, “Guys and Dolls” will be performed July 11 through July 19. Individual tickets will go on sale starting Monday June 30.

The fourth show will be “A Year with Frog and Toad,” which Hoey said is “a really sweet show” that will appeal to all audiences. Written by Robert and Willie Reale and based on the Frog and Toad children’s stories by Arnold Lobel, it was nominated for a Tony Award in 2003.

Directed by Nate Downs, the show will be performed Aug. 1 through Aug. 9. Tickets will go on sale Monday, July 21.

The final show of the 2014 season will be the regional premiere of the Broadway blockbuster “Monty Python’s Spamalot.” The show, which calls itself a “musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” was written by Monty Python veterans Eric Idle, John DuPrez and Neil Innes. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2005.

Directed by Tim Wyman, “Spamalot” will be performed Aug. 22 through Aug. 30. Individual tickets will go on sale Monday, Aug. 11.

Season tickets on sale; still a bargain

Season tickets are still $66, Hoey said, and are on sale now at the theatre. They can be ordered online, as well.

“This is the type of season people will enjoy every show and they will remember them. Corn Stock is already such a wonderful experience and on the nights the weather is good and the show is good there is nothing better than an evening of theatre at the tent. The way the tent is set up makes it a much more intimate experience. People can enjoy the show and watch everybody else enjoying it, as well,” she said.

Hoey said Corn Stock is always looking for volunteers, especially during the season. She said they are many places a person can help with little or no experiences, such as sitting a ramp for a show or in the box office or back stage. “If anyone is interested, just give us a call and tell us what you’d like to do. We’ll find a place for you,” she said.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).