NUANGOLA — For one USO-style dance number in “Funny Girl,” everybody is marching around in a disciplined, upright manner — except for a certain performer who dares to be different.
“She’s doing crazy, almost caveman-like moves,” said Michael Marone, who is directing the musical for Theatre at the Grove through Aug. 14.
The dancer who goes rogue is legendary, Vaudeville-era comedienne Fanny Brice, whom Marone describes as “a true visionary in her time. She shed the mold about what it was like to be a woman in the theater scene (during the early 1900s) when you had to be tall and skinny and beautiful.”
“She broke the stereotypes,” Marone said, “and introduced the concept of a woman who did funny routines, paving the way for Ethel Merman and Carol Burnett and a lot of today’s comediennes.”
Brice may also have paved the way for Erin Eichfeld, 24, of Drums, who portrays the title character in the local production.
“I was in love with the role and the show,” Eichfeld said, explaining she watched the 1968 movie version starring Barbra Streisand many times while growing up. “It’s been my dream role since I started doing theater.”
While other women on the vaudeville circuit may have been content to “look pretty, wear insanely large headdresses and just be there to be looked at,” Eichfeld said, Fanny Brice “wasn’t willing to compromise her own personality and her own desires.
“Fanny doesn’t want to just be looked at. She wants to be known,” said Eichfeld, who admits she, too, would like to be known. She recently finished her degree in musical theater from Marymount Manhattan College on the Upper East Side, and intends to return to the Big Apple soon.
“I’ll be going back to New York and auditioning for anything and everything that comes my way.”
For now, she’s enjoying this hometown production immensely.
“There are moments when I look out into the audience and look at the people who are on stage with me and think, ‘This is what I’m meant to do,’ ” Eichfeld said. “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had on stage.”
“Fanny isn’t considered to be pretty at all,” Eichfeld said. “But she has a beautiful personality and a beautiful range of talent that she needs to get out or she’ll explode.”
“Everybody’s doing a great job,” Marone, the director, said as the show’s final weekend approached. “We’ve had sold-out crowds for Sunday matinees and standing ovations. Everybody falls in love with the character of Fanny Brice.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT
IF YOU GO
What: ‘Funny Girl’
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 12; 3 and 8 p.m. Aug. 13; 3 p.m. Aug. 14
Where: Theatre at the Grove, 5177 Nuangola Road, Nuangola
Tickets: $20; $15 for senior citizens at 3 p.m. Aug. 13 show