By Wayne Harada
lBetter late than never: I regret not taking in Diamond Head Theatre’s “Funny Girl,” in the prime of its run.
I coulda, shoulda, woulda conveyed my delight and thrill with Broadway/film classic so you mighta been able to go see, too.
But I attended the final (heldover) matinee performance Sunday (Oct. 14) ... and was thoroughly charmed and enchanted by local girl Isabelle “Izzy” Decauwert, in the lead role of Fanny Brice, the character that gave Barbra Streisand her ticket to superstardom.
Decauwert quickly made you forget Babs, from the first “Hello Gorgeous” in front of the mirror, to her final curtain belter with real tears.
Hers was a gorgeous, textured, layered performance – equal parts singing and laughs ... and a skosh of dancing, too.
The point: Decauwert inhabited Brice, making her right-on in every respect: an ugly duckling (in her estimation), strutting to become a swan; a laugh-maker, hoping to be taken seriously; a nobody, aching to become a somebody; an aging single, looking to be a bride.
Through the stagecraft of the storytelling, all of the above happens, of course.
As a guest artist with Island roots, Decauwert had to go away — to New York, on national tours, working with stage wigs — to earn her passage back. It was worth the wait.
And happily, she let her hair down in a pivotal role of a classic show biz legend.
She sang the show’s most formidable tunes, “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” but Decauwert was possibly best and most emotional on her
“You Are Woman, I Am Man” duet with her suitor/husband, Nick Arnstein (Benoit Weber), blending her vocal and comedic finesse into a perfect mirror of her divided emotions. He, of course, was a device — the smooth romantic who had a bad habit — and was the perfect foil for Fanny’s dreams and disappointments.
The cast was filled with more gems than on a bracelet: Shari Lynn, who played Fanny in 1988, was Mrs. Brice, the very Jewish mama of Fanny, bringing with her pipes and a cache of illuminating past credits. She was spot-on in group numbers like “If a Girl Isn’t Pretty” and duets like “Who Taught Her Everything.
As Eddie Ryan, the backstage guy and buddy of Fanny, Bradley Moon was devoted and patient as they come in grooming the chanteuse with her onstage presence.
And Lisa Konove displayed her substantial comedic manner to Mrs. Strakosh, providing balance and buoyancy in her relationship with Mrs. Brice.
In the entrepreneurial Florenz Ziefeld character, Bob Frederick didn’t sing leads but provided a veneer of show biz authority and acclaim.
Director-choreographer John Rampage raised the high-water mark with this one, filling the stage with joyful movement and enchantingly staged songs, though the limited stage space and access provided huge challenges to “choreograph” Willie Sabel’s pair of scrappy set staircases to fit the landscape. And kudos to costumer Lacy Rohlf, whose wizardry was best showcased in the Ziegfeld showgirls finery.
Emmett Yoshioka, of course, conducted his eight-piece orchestra, making it sound twice the size.
But “Funny Girl” has played its final show — it's history now — so I apologize about sharing my glee belatedly. If you're among the people who've seen this, you're among the luckiest people in the world.