New star putting her own stamp on ‘Funny Girl’: ‘No universe in which I will be Barbra Streisand’

It’s been 58 years since “Funny Girl” last came to San Francisco.

Loosely based on the life of legendary comedian and singer Fanny Brice, the musical’s first national tour came to San Francisco’s Curran Theater in April 1966.

It’s been a similarly long time between Broadway productions. The original 1964 Broadway production famously starred Barbra Streisand, who went on to win an Academy Award for the 1968 movie version in her film debut. It wouldn’t be revived on Broadway until 2022, although in the meantime there was a short-lived 1996 U.S. tour starring Debbie Gibson that petered out before it could hit the West Coast.

It’s this latest Broadway revival, directed by Michael Mayer (“American Idiot” and the upcoming “Galileo” at Berkeley Rep) with a revamped book by Harvey Fierstein, that’s now coming to S.F. on tour for a four-week stay at the Orpheum Theatre.

This Broadway run initially starred Beanie Feldstein and then Lea Michele, whose “Glee” character similarly starred in a fictional Broadway revival of “Funny Girl.”

There’s a reason it’s taken the show so long to be revived. The role of Fanny Brice requires an explosive mixture of forceful vocals, humor, charisma and the undeniable spark of a star being born.

This new tour has found that elusive combination in up-and-comer Katerina McCrimmon, whose dynamic performance been earning rave reviews all across the country.

“I remember reading about the Broadway revival and thinking, oh wow, they’re finally doing it,” McCrimmon says. “Because it’s such a hard role to cast. Having done it over 200 times now, I can confidently say it’s probably the hardest in the musical theater canon. You’ve got to be funny. You’ve got to be able to be vulnerable. It is a two hour and 40 minute show, and I’m probably on stage for two and a half of those hours. Anytime I leave the stage, it’s just to change my costume and then come back on. I’m just lucky I’m young and gifted with a strong voice that can withstand a lot under pressure.”

This is McCrimmon’s big break, but she already has one Broadway production under her belt, as an understudy in the 2019 revival of “The Rose Tattoo” with Marisa Tomei.

“She actually discovered me,” McCrimmon says. “I was still in school, and I was teaching summer camp at Miami Childrens Theater. One of the faculty members called me and he said, ‘Roundabout Theatre Company is trying to get in contact with you. They want you to audition for the Broadway revival of ‘The Rose Tattoo’ by Tennessee Williams, starring Marisa Tomei.’ I was in Miami on a Friday, and on Monday was my audition in New York City. The director looks at me and he says, ‘You sing, right? I saw your video. Marisa sent it to me.’ And he says, ‘We want to offer you the understudy for the role.’ My life is changed. First Broadway audition, I book it on the spot.”

McCrimmon later learned that Tomei had run across a video of her online while searching for someone to play her daughter in the play.

“I met her when we started rehearsals, and she was like, ‘You are just a volcano!’” McCrimmon says.

She didn’t grow up in an arts-oriented family, but McCrimmon was a born performer.

“I knew I could sing as soon as I gained consciousness,” she says. “I didn’t know what theater was. I didn’t have a name for it, but I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I would stand in front of the TV, and I would copy the people in the movies. I was a little kid and my dad was helping me take a bath. He stepped out for a second, and I started singing. He put his ear to the door and he called my mom over and said, I think she has a voice!”

McCrimmon did her first musical at the age of 8 –‘Understood Betsy,’ based on a children’s book — shortly after seeing her first musical onstage.

“I went on a field trip to see ‘Madeline’s Christmas,’” McCrimmon says. “What was really exciting to me was that I saw kids my age on stage singing and dancing. I was sitting next to my mom when I saw it, and I leaned over to her and I was like, ‘This is it. This is what I want to do.’”

One of the remarkable things about McCrimmon’s breakthrough role is how early some could see it coming.

“The first time I ever saw the movie I was about 16 years old,” McCrimmon says. “I was dating a boy in high school, and his mother told me that I needed to see the movie, because I was going to play Fanny Brice one day. We watched the movie that night, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Yeah, I see it.’”

Now not only is McCrimmon playing Brice to thunderous acclaim, but her mother is being played by pop star Melissa Manchester, for crying out loud.

“My mom cried when she found out that I was going to be playing her daughter, because my mom grew up listening to her music in the ’70s,” McCrimmon says. “She lived in a pretty packed house in Miami with my great-grandmother, her mother, her aunt, her cousins, and there wasn’t much space to share. She would sing ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud’ in her room, and my cousins would tell her to shut up.”

The role is twice iconic. Brice was a huge star of the radio and the Broadway stage, and the musical’s songs (“People,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade”) are indelibly associated with Streisand.

The movie is iconic for a reason,” says McCrimmon. “Barbra is just one of a kind. But I had to put that away. There’s no universe in which I will be Barbra Streisand. There’s no universe in which I will be Lia Michele. There’s only a universe at this point in time that I will be Katerina McCrimmon. And so I just led with that. I led with play. I was a goofball in rehearsals. I tried things. I fell on my face and I tried it again.”

Contact Sam Hurwitt at, and follow him at


Music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, book by Isobel Lennart, revised by Harvey Fierstein, presented by BroadwaySF

When: April 30-May 26

Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco

Tickets: $55-$160;




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