By Erin Pike, Jewish Sound Correspondent
Sarah Rose Davis stars as Fanny Bryce in Village Theatre’s upcoming production of “Funny Girl.” The Jewish Sound spoke with Davis about the part.
Jewish Sound: Are you excited to be playing this role?
Sarah Davis: I am! I haven’t yet had the time to be excited… I think I’m a little more anxious than anything else, just because it’s so big, and there are still so many elements to add in.
JS: Have you been in a production of “Funny Girl” before?
SD: I have never been in this show before, but I have always wanted to. I don’t think I would’ve been able to play this role any earlier… I’m just now 25. But I can certainly play it for more years to come after this. Plus, not many [theaters] do “Funny Girl,” so this is the first opportunity I’ve had.
JS: I remember watching the film version of “Funny Girl” as a teenager and being surprised by some of the dark undertones in the story…
SD: There are definitely some darker scenes. I mean, that’s the battle of Fanny Bryce, you have to put on the show of being this funny comedian all of the time… she’s this big, over-the-top comedian, but her personal life was struggling, like a lot of a celebrities go through, you know?
JS: Do you think those dark undertones are the reason that the musical isn’t produced very often?
SD: I don’t think that is necessarily the reason, because it’s always good to have juxtaposition in a show. Honestly, it doesn’t get done because, one: it’s a huge show, and two: you need someone to play Fanny Bryce! There are lots of talented people, but nobody really writes roles like this for one single character anymore. I think it’s an intimidating show to take on, for a theater…
JS: …And for an actor!
SD: Definitely. I mean, not only is this the biggest part I’ve played [so far], but it’s probably the biggest part I’ll ever play. Only because they don’t write roles this big any more, and probably for good reason. I mean, I’d say I’m off stage for maybe one scene? Maybe a total of 11 minutes in the whole play.
JS: Wow. Do you have any nerves about singing the epic, classic song, “Don’t Rain on My Parade?”
SD: Oh yes. It’s an extremely difficult song, and at that point I’ll have already been on stage for an hour and a half.
JS: Are there any special tactics you’ve developed to keep your energy up?
SD: That’s still to be determined… we haven’t [started performing] yet. But as far as rehearsals go, I don’t sing out fully, and I’ve been taking voice lessons still every week with my voice teacher to make sure I’m healthy. I drink a ton of water. I’m still discovering little tricks here and there… a lot of times I will have gum in my mouth, which you’re not supposed to do! But with gum in my mouth, there’s enough saliva so that I can actually speak.
JS: The bit of rehearsal I observed this week was during the staging of the number, “If a Girl Isn’t Pretty.” During that song, I realized, that idea is still sadly relevant, like the whole issue of “beauty” being a requirement for a female performer. Even if you’re being funny, you still have to be attractive, whereas that standard may not always exist for men.
SD: It’s totally true, there are such ridiculous standards nowadays, for many things. Even if you look at comedians like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler… have you noticed they’ve gotten traditionally more attractive over the years?
SD: It’s because [being pretty means] they can get a little further… it’s like, a beautiful girl being funny is also funny. But then where do the non-traditionally attractive people fit in?
JS: What are some of the main messages the audience might take away from “Funny Girl”?
From Fanny’s point of view, it’s “don’t take no for an answer.” Certainly not for a first, second, or third answer. And, nobody can tell you what you’re capable of. A standard can be changed.