The first time Stage West Community Playhouse did the musical Funny Girl in 2004, professional actor Sara DelBeato played the title role — and picked up a HAMI award for her efforts.
When the reprise of the show opens Thursday, the funny girl will be the first stage role Ashley Ducale has ever played.
"This is her stage debut anywhere, and what a pleasure to direct," director John Masterson said. "Her voice is superb, and her dramatic skills were easy for me to bring to the surface." Ms. Ducale plays piano and sings with her church choir, so she isn't a complete stranger to performing for an audience.
In addition, the novice actor will be surrounded by 17 stage veterans, many of them HAMI winners, including Lynda Dilts-Benson, who won a HAMI the first time she played Mrs. Brice, the funny girl's mom. Another nine cast members are also making their Stage West debuts.
Funny Girl is based on the life of radio and vaudeville star Fanny Brice, who many know as Baby Snooks of the 1940s Baby Snooks Show, about the antics of an impish little prankster.
The musical concentrates on her 1920s stage career in the legendary Ziegfeld's Follies of Florenz Ziegfeld (Jim Hansen, Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace and multi-HAMI winner) and her troubled romance with gambler Nick Arnstein (Stan Kane, Walter in Move Over, Mrs. Markham, HAMI for The Secret Garden).
It's told in flashback, as Fanny looks back at her struggles in show business and with Nick, who is just getting out of prison for embezzlement.
Her mom and mom's friend Mrs. Strakosh (Linda Campo, HAMI in Anything Goes) discourage her stage ambitions, warning her of the pitfalls of the business in If A Girl Isn't Pretty.
Her ego is boosted by her stage buddy Eddie (Brian Moran) and by Ziegfeld himself, who sees that Fanny is really one of a kind.
But her private life is constant turmoil, as she longs for the well-meaning but fickle Arnstein.
The show's musical director Elaine Saulnier (HAMI winner, along with Masterson, for Anything Goes) coaches the cast in some of Broadway's favorite tunes, including Don't Rain on My Parade and People, the song that made the original stage Fanny, Barbra Streisand, a household name.
Broadway's Funny Girl ran for 1,348 performances after its opening on March 26, 1964, and was nominated for eight Tony Awards. It was adapted into a movie in 1968, also starring Ms. Streisand. Although it's popular in regional and community theater, the show hasn't been revived on Broadway (though there is a rumor of a revival in 2012).
The Stage West version in 2004 won seven HAMI awards, including Favorite Show.