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Funny Girl#039; charms full house at the Ritz

As legendary comedienne Fancy Brice herself might have said, "it was a gorgeous evening, just gorgeous" for the many theater patrons that turned out last Thursday night, February 21, to view the Greenville Area Arts Council's latest production, the smash Broadway musical "Funny Girl."

The vivacious Jackie Turner, a Philadelphia native and veteran of the Walnut Street Theatre, appeared as Brooklyn's own Brice, a lady with an out-sized nose and tremendous talent for making others laugh.

Whether mugging her way through a re-creation of one of impresario Florenz' Zeigfield's lavish stage performances or singing the wistful "People", Turner effectively captured both the humor and pathos of the character in her energetic performance on stage that evening.

Bob Brown, a Syracuse, N.Y. native and 24-year veteran of radio, television and stage, created a smooth and suave Nick Arnstein as the opposite that attracted, won and ultimately broke Fanny's heart.

Other notables in the cast included Kathryn Viola as Fanny's saloon keeper mom and Joe Abraham as Eddie Ryan, the hoofer with a yen for Brice. Abraham was able to show off his considerable tap-dancing skills in numbers like "Rat-a-Tat-Tat."

The production, directed by Dom Ruggerio, boasted a bevy of beautiful period costumes from the teens and Roaring Twenties' with music provided by a talented six-person orchestral group under the capable direction of Camille Villalpando.

For the first time, the Ritz's newly renovated and furnished reception and conference rooms were both used in conjunction with a GAAC production. A large group of more than 60 attendees arrived early in the evening to enjoy a pre-production supper in the theater's new reception room, an event catered by Greenville's Jill Stallworth.

Following the production, a well-attended reception was held for patrons, cast and crew in the two rooms.

A variety of local camellia blooms and glowing candles graced each of the bistro tables and further color and vibrance were added through a large fresh flower arrangement (created by florist Nancy Idland) which featured birds-of-paradise, calla lilies and burnt orange orchids.

This arrangement provided a stunning centerpiece for the reception table, where a lavish spread of home-baked pastries and other edibles made by Miss' Bobbie Gamble and fellow members of the GAAC, awaited hungry patrons.

The next and final production for the GAAC 2001-2002 season is the country and western musical "Honky Tonk Angels" scheduled for early April.