This intriguing premise is the basis of The Funny Girls – a two-act play that starts in the drab backstage of an off-off-Broadway production of dubious merits and ends in a luxe Vegas dressing room after a show by Barbra. It allows us to hear the “fantastical clash of ego and dreams between two young starlets”. The wisecracks come fast and furious, outlining their struggles to become professional performers, overcoming misogyny, anti-Semitism and judgemental, disapproving and overbearing Jewish matriarchs.
Mia Tomlinson plays Joan and brings a vital spark of fizzing energy to the stage although never quite capturing Joan Rivers’s idiosyncrasies. Rosanna Harris plays Barbra and surprises the house with a knock-out (if short) rendition of ‘People’, and at times has an uncanny resemblance to the star – especially when she gets the Brooklyn Jewish upward inflection on a sentence just right.
The situation allows playwright Roy Smiles to explore the nature of fame, competition and reflected glory between friends, and just what did Elvis get up to with Streisand’s feet? There are more than a few knowing references to their gay fan base and knowing when to seize your moment.
It’s true that conflict creates drama, but this clash becomes the biggest fight since Kong vs Godzilla! At times it feels a bit relentless and risks going overboard, but is saved by the occasional tender moment, such as when Barbra ask Joan sincerely “Why do you care about me?”. The connection is instantaneous, and the emotional heft is mighty – they are not so different after all, these two girls from Brooklyn.
Directed by Michael Strassen
STUDIO AT NEW WIMBLEDON THEATRE 17TH - 24TH SEPTEMBER 2021 UPSTAIRS AT THE GATEHOUSE 26TH OCTOBER — 21ST NOVEMBER 2021
REVIEW : JONNY WARD
Jonny Ward, Queerguru Contributing EDITOR is a drama graduate but has worked backstage for many years at venues such as The ROYAL ALBERT Hall, The 02, Southbank Centre and most recently at The NATIONAL THEATRE. He lives in Hoxton, London, and is delighted to check out the latest, the hottest, and the downright dodgy in queer culture for Queerguru. (P.S. He is currently single) @JonnyWard360