While Barbra Streisand fans wait on the brink for the announcement about a new film adaptation of “Gypsy” to be the bookend for her movie musical career — which will happen in 2012 — other Streisand musical projects are trying to make it on stage. “Funny Girl,” which had a lot of buzz as a new revival with Lauren Ambrose and Bobby Cannavale in the roles of Fanny Brice and Nick Arnstein, was “indefinitely postponed” on Friday.
That means those plans to open in April at the Imperial Theater are off. It also means we won’t get to see if Ambrose, who was so brilliant on HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” had the makings of a Fanny that would have equalled Barbra’s Tony-nominated and Oscar-winning performance. Equal, but never top, because in my opinion, nobody will ever make an audience forget that Barbra Streisand made “Funny Girl” and every song has her indelible stamp.
So “Funny Girl” goes back on the shelf. Theatergoers and the like need not weep; the DVD of “Funny Girl” is there for your enjoyment.
Then there’s the case of “Yentl.” An enterprising Florida theater director, Gordon Greenberg of the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, is restaging “Yentl” using Leah Napolin’s play and adding music. Not the Michel Legrand-Alan & Marilyn Bergman Oscar-winning score from Barbra Streisand’s 1983 film with music. No, Greenberg has hired “I Kissed A Girl” pop songwriter Jill Sobule to write the songs. (Yes, when Yentl as Anshel kisses Hadass, she can break out into “I Kissed a Girl (and I Liked It)” a la Katy Perry!)
Greenberg told Playbill, “This is a Brechtian or Shakespearean take on it — where music helps excavate the raw sexuality and passionate emotion throughout the show. It’s been a thrilling few days already, fusing this amazing play about gender and hormonal rushes with Jill’s Klezmer-folk-rock score. It’s going to be pretty exciting.
Interestingly, the characters will not sing in scenes, but around and in between them. According to Greenberg, “We’re not changing the text — just putting music to the play, in between scenes. [The] original play is amazingly sexual and resonant — both politically and socially. Women are still banned from education in many countries — and we are seeing a huge breakdown in gender roles and the laws of attraction. Introducing a live band and a rock score underlines the ageless ideas of young love and sexual questioning.”
It seems incongruent to attached a rock score with a late 19th century story of a girl from the shtetl who wants to study the Talmud. And how ironic that Streisand’s romantic take, with musical inner monologues that seamlessly flowed throughout the picture, was exactly what Greenberg described — Shakespearean! Only Streisand’s Yentl could sing because the songs were in her head.
Finally, there’s yet another Streisand musical theater project coming to the fore — “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.” The 1970 Vincente Minnelli film version of the original Alan Jay Lerner-Burton Lane Broadway musical is being revived on Broadway with Harry Connick, Jr. and a completely revamped book. Barbra’s character in the movie, Daisy Gamble, is now David Gamble!
That’s right; she’s a he. And in the hypnotic regression scenes, David recalls a past life not as Melinda Tentrees, but Melinda Wells. Where Barbra’s Melinda was an 18th century British orphan who became royalty by using her psychic gifts to rise up socially, the new Melinda Wells is a 1940’s jazz singer. As in the film, the psychiatrist — Yves Montand was Dr. Chabot and Harry Connick is Dr. Bruckner, different names but the same character — isn’t interested in Daisy/David, but falls in love with Melinda/Melinda! Previews for “Clear Day” begin on November 12.
With Harry Connick as the big name drawer, you have to wonder how the show will be reconfigured. Connick’s casting would suggest a lot more from the shrink’s point of view. With Barbra Streisand starring — and Tony-nominee Barbara Harris in the original Broadway show — “On A Clear Day” was a female-driven star vehicle.
Which, in some way brings us back to “Gypsy.” The ultimate star-driven musical which, if Barbra is true to her word, will be a nice way to point an exclamation point on her work as a musical comedy actress. To have started with “Funny Girl” and end with “Gypsy”…that would be fantastic.