The Patterson Mill High School Drama Company performed to standing ovations this past weekend as they presented Isobel Lennart’s book, Funny Girl, for their 2012 spring musical.
Featuring the music of Jule Styne, lyrics of Bob Merrill, and directed by Patterson Mill High School music department chair, Shane Jensen, the cast was lead by the powerful singing voice of Katie Farlow (Fanny Brice), and the always larger than life stage personality of Vince Kalwa (Nick Arnstein). Both are seniors and veteran members of the Patterson Mill Drama Company.
From the theaters in New York, to an exclusive restaurant in Baltimore, the cast brought to life the backstage and on-stage true story of a determined, yet awkward Jewish girl, who grew up in vaudeville as a star with the Ziegfield Follies (Matt Jones).
It was common at the time for actors to be typecast based on their looks and heritage. Born Fania Borach, Fanny changed her name so she could break away from the Semitic roles she was consistently offered. While her singing and grace would bring applause from any audience, Fanny's self image left her doubtful she would ever find love.
Then along came Arnstein, a handsome, smooth talking thief, who swept Fanny off her feet. You would later discover he scammed Fanny out of thousands of dollars on various get-rich-quick schemes. Arnstein would eventually land in prison for his shady deeds.
Always wanting the best for her daughter, the family bar was the backdrop for many conversations between Fanny’s sharp-tongued mother, Mrs. Brice (Casey Clark) and her good friends, including the overly eager matchmaker, Mrs. Strakosh (Aly Lloyd). In keeping with her character, Casey entertained the audience with a thick New York accent while Aly’s facial expressions and hand gestures transformed her from high school student to theater performer. Either of these young ladies could play a lead role in future productions.
Sophomore, Megan Valle, had a dual role as show choreographer, and Jenny, the lead Ziegfeld girl. Her talents were evident on all the dance numbers including her quick-footed tap dance solo which would have Gregory Hines proud.
Sophomore, Ryan Bordenski, had a particularly challenging performance as he was thrust into the role of, John, one of Ziegfield’s assistant producers. An extended illness by the student originally cast for the part forced a change at the last minute. Carrying a clipboard with his lines throughout rehearsals, Ryan’s new role consistently improved and his efforts shined through.
One of the more humorous moments of the weekend came on opening night when a sneeze came from the audience. Without breaking character, Farlow turned to the audience offering a “bless you.” The audience responded with laughter as Katie used some of her improvisational skills.
The Patterson Mill Drama Company student musicians make the production unique. While many schools use professional musicians or pre-recorded soundtracks, Patterson Mill offers its students and their audience a true high school musical experience. Directed by PMHS band director and HCPS Teacher of the Year finalist, Ron Burke, the 29-member orchestra performed 19 pieces of music as part of the show.
The show could not go on without the support of the student technical crew. Lead by student director, Sabian McIntyre, the crew carried a host of responsibilities including set changes, lighting, soundboard operation, make-up and costume changes. The cast behind the scenes is a performance no one sees but is as intricate a part of the show's success.
Throughout the story, Fanny would stand by her man even under the worst of circumstances. As the final scene emerges, Nick was released from prison and arrives in Fanny’s dressing room as she prepares for her next performance. While it’s clear Fanny and Nick still care for each other, they decide it would be best that each go their separate ways.
With that, the curtain fell on Sunday afternoon with another outstanding performance by all involved with the Patterson Mill High School Drama Company.