Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace’s production of Funny Girl, that classic musical comedy that launched the “Barbra Streisand” brand, is getting ready to open, and press information was sent out recently. As I’ve been relatively off the grid for a while, I was excited to discover what Chicago diva is getting her chance to star as Fanny Brice — especially since Heidi Kettenring is currently playing Eliza Doolittle up in Lincolnshire, and human cloning remains a distant reality.
(I’m being facetious, but Chicago theatre — particularly the professional suburban scene — does have a reputation for casting the same people.)
But, guess what? Sara Sheperd, pretty much an unknown actress with a handful of professional credits around the country, is taking on the iconic role — and I couldn’t be happier. I applaud Drury Lane for casting a young, fresh face in this exciting role, rather than going for tried and true. I gather Funny Girl isn’t produced as often as one would think due to the difficulty in finding a star who can do the show justice, so director William Osetek* must have really found something special in Sheperd. Aside from the casting challenge, the show has some very creaky moments in Act 2, so we’ll see if Osetek has managed to solve these when I see the show on Sunday.
(*Drury Lane’s web site credits Gary Griffin as the director, but the press release states it’s Osetek. Hmmm…)