Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

Eight O'Clock Theatre presents 'Funny Girl'

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LARGO — When Sadra Bostick was a little girl, her mother kept Barbra Streisand's records turning on the stereo.

Her mother was a repeat customer for Streisand movies like Yentl and Funny Girl, too.

"She even named me Sadra, to call me Sadie like in the song Sadie, Sadie from Funny Girl,'' said Bostick, 37.

From tonight through March 11, Eight O'Clock Theatre will present Funny Girl at the Largo Cultural Center. And Bostick will be playing Fanny Brice, an opportunity she calls "thrilling."

Trey Ryan, an Eight O'Clock Theatre favorite seen in last fall's Mister Roberts, will play Nicky Arnstein, a role filled by Omar Sharif in the 1968 movie.

Bostick and Ryan are talented singers who bring a certain vulnerability to the stage, said Linda Woodruff Weir, the show's director.

"Sadra makes (the part) her own. And it's amazing how the music hits right at Trey's sweet spot. It's beautiful to hear,'' she said.

Based on the 1964 Broadway musical, Funny Girl delves into the real-life romance and stormy marriage of Brice, a comedian and star of the Ziegfeld Follies, to Arnstein, an entrepreneur and gambler.

Set in New York after World War I, the musical is known for such hits as People, Don't Rain on My Parade and You Are Woman, I Am Man.

Like Bostick, Weir has an emotional attachment to Funny Girl. In 1996, the first play she performed in after moving to Pinellas County was Funny Girl presented by the Clearwater City Players at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

"I was Mrs. Strakosh,'' said Weir, 62. "Since then, no (community theater group) has put Funny Girl on."

Sixteen years later, Weir is directing a cast of 31, which includes Ronnie Farley as Fannie's mother, Rose Brice, and James Grenelle as Fanny's buddy Eddie Ryan.

"What's funny is that James was with me in the 1996 City Players version," Weir said. "He was a teenager back then, and it was the same role — Eddie. I like to tease him that he hasn't aged at all."

And why do Weir and Grenelle think Funny Girl hasn't been performed by local community theater in 16 years?

"Barbra,'' they say in unison.

"Nobody wants to touch her,'' Grenelle said.

"In order to do this, we had to have an excellent vocalist who is also a great actress,'' Weir said. "Sadra has a great voice. She doesn't try to imitate (Barbra)."

Bostick has been in the hot seat before. She also played Annie in Annie Get Your Gun, a role made famous by Ethel Merman, at St. Petersburg Little Theatre and Maria in The Sound of Music, a role made famous by Julie Andrews, at Richey Suncoast Theatre.

"If we allowed ourselves to be intimidated by these roles other people made great, then nothing would ever get done,'' Bostick said.

Instead, Bostick, who is a curriculum specialist for Ponce de Leon Elementary School, says she prepared for the role by working one-on-one with Emi Stefanov, the show's musical director.

"It's definitely a strong, vocal role. Emi and I worked long and hard on how I moved in order to get the sound we wanted,'' she said.

And yes, Bostick's mother, Barbara Paul of St. Petersburg, will be on hand to see her daughter perform her favorite musical.

"My mom has organized a massive amount of people coming in to see the show,'' Bostick said. "I've got friends, family coming in from as far away as Nevada and Arkansas. As far as my mother goes, I just could not not have auditioned for this role.''

Piper Castillo can be reached at (727) 445-4163 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

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