Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 07 May 2014 00:00
The Herricks Community Players have tackled classics like The Music Man and Guys and Dolls, but its current production, Funny Girl, is its most ambitious yet. The play, which opened last week, will feature shows on May 9, 10, 16 and 17 at 8 p.m.
Community Players director John Hayes first produced Funny Girl in 1982 for Herricks. Hayes has always wanted to revisit the production and helped pick the key players. He’s been the director for 36 years, running 67 performances.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while and now we’re finally doing it,” he said. “We have a great cast; about 35 in the cast.”
Hayes said the play touches on famed Broadway star Fanny Brice’s life, using flashbacks to showcase her career and issues with her husband, Nick Arnstein.
“It was the show that made [Barbra] Streisand a star,” Hayes said. “It’s a very hard show to put together. It’s a two-hour flashback of [Brice’s] life.”
Cathy Chimenti, who played the main character, Fanny Brice, played the role 10 years ago for a community theater group in Douglaston, Queens. She can’t wait to tackle the role again for Herricks.
“Playing the role again makes me realize how much I’ve grown as a performer,” she said. “Through 10 years, you go through so many more life-changing events and different experiences that I can bring into the role.”
Chimenti said the first time around playing Brice, she researched her career on Broadway and read “anything and everything.” Digging into the minutiae is part of her process.
“It helps to know the character, especially when they were a real person,” she said.
Chimenti participated in other theater projects on Long Island, including Gypsy and Fiddler on the Roof. Her love of acting grew because of the 1968 film adaptation of Funny Girl, with a young Barbra Streisand playing the lead role.
“I’ve loved acting since I was little, when my mom introduced me to Funny Girl,” Chimenti said. “I was so drawn to all the characters and as an actress, [Fanny] is one of those parts where you can do everything. There’s humor, drama...all depths of an actress can be used in that part.”
Jake Glickman plays Eddie Ryan, a close friend of Brice. Glickman said he prefers the book, rather than the play and film. His first role in Herricks was in Mame last year.
“I think it’s a wonderful love story and a story of an ambitious young woman,” he said. “There’s inspiration, there’s romance, there’s heartbreak.”
Glickman hopes to play Ryan as the overlooked love interest that Brice should choose to be with.
“I like the idea of the character being the underdog as a love interest, even thought the main character is in love with Nick [Arnstein], who’s not good for her,” Glickman said. “I’m hoping to portray to the audience that [Eddie] is the guy that she should be with.”
Richard Buckley plays Brice’s husband, Nick Arnstein. He calls the play “a great combination of a musical, but an interesting, dramatic and true story.” Buckley has been with Herricks for five productions and once served as Herricks School Board president.
“Nick Arnstein is a very complex character,” he said. “His role has a lot of weight and that’s why I enjoy the part. In real life, Arnstein wasn’t that nice. But the play kind of soft-soaks him a little bit.”
Barbara Murphy plays Fanny’s mom, Rose. Murphy feels the role has “chutzpah” and “spunk,” which intrigued her.
“It’s a great character,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of shows with Herricks. I’ve been with them since 1989.”
Frank Hendricks will play Florenz Ziegfeld. He played the character 25 years ago in a production of the Ziegfeld Follies. Hendricks performed for the now defunct Theater Two in Glen Cove, as well as South Pacific and Camelot.
“I’m drawn to these authoritarian types, whether they are serious or comedic,” he said.
The production is one of the more bolder ones Herricks has embarked on. The sets are intricate in design and require attention to detail, says co-producer and stage manager Margo Bayroff.
“It’s a big show,” she said. “Every scene pretty much takes place in different areas. So sets are changing constantly. We’re all volunteers and it’s a great experience.”
Tickets are $23 for adults, $18 for seniors and children. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 516-742-1926.