‘Don’t let it rain on her parade’

Louisa Talbot and dancers rehearse the ballet scene.

Forget about it raining on her parade, Louisa Talbot is confident that Funny Girl – The Musical, is a show that will “blow people away”.

From tap and ragtime to ballet, this choreographer and neo-classical dancer is skilled in a variety of genres.

Louisa lives in Kirstenhof with the love of her life Toffee Talbot, whom she adopted from Boxer Rescue. They are often seen walking together through Tokai Park. But. Back to Funny Girl.

This musical was arguably Barbra Streisand’s big breakthrough in the original production of a film adaptation of the musical released in 1968 when she played the lead as Fanny Brice.

The vocal talents and comedic ability see the character’s rise from a Brooklyn music hall singer to Broadway star. Streisand won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as well as the Golden Globe alongside Omar Sharif. The film also portrayed Brice’s tempestuous relationship with gambler Nick Arnstein.

Louisa has no doubt that in the Fugard production, Ashleigh Harvey as Fanny Brice will “blow people away” and that theatregoers are sure to go home feeling good.

“The story has a cute moral message but people will definitely need to bring their tissues as they will go through a rollercoaster of emotions,” she says.

Louisa says lengthy auditions to find just the right cast for this production were held in Cape Town and Johannesburg – and were gruelling.

Teamwork by director Matthew Wild, musical director by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder and herself, resulted in them sifting out the best from a huge selection of South African talent. They were judged on a “triple threat” combination of their vocal performance as well as their dance and acting ability. Casting is key, according to Louisa.

She and Matthew have known each other since high school days at Bergvliet. Louisa is behind stage hits like the Rocky Horror Show, Cabaret and West Side Story. She became a soloist in the Cape Dance Company at age 13 and by 19 had made her international debut as a semi-finalist in De Concours De Paris International Dance Competition.

Local television audiences will remember her as one of South Africa’s top 12 dancers on So You Think You Can Dance, in 2008. She has also danced on Costa Classical Cruisers and with Jazzart Dance Theatre. More recently she has worked for Universal Pictures on films Honey 3 and Bring It On.

Louisa says she likes to work with people who have an open mind and bring their own style. “I don’t always know what I’ll get but then I don’t like playing it safe,” laughed Louisa.

She says research time has included watching videos of past productions and she has found the story inspiring and full of emotion. “They had such chutzpah and we want to portray that essence.”

Louisa says the early part of the musical is set in 1910 and moves into 1920 when the Charleston, flapper style and the foxtrot were in. “I got inspiration from that era and customised the movements with my spin,” she says.

She adds that it takes place in the time frame that is similar to Cabaret when Ziegfeld Follies were huge. The show also includes tap, ragtime, a lot of theatre and pure ballet. The latter, rehearsed at Fugard Annexe, is performed in a scene in which Barbra Streisand, wearing a tutu, tries some dance moves, and is a parody of serious ballet.

Funny Girl – the Musical, opened at The Fugard Theatre in Caledon Street (off Buitenkant Street), District Six, on Tuesday April 18, with performances from Tuesdays to Fridays at 8pm and on Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm.

Ticket prices range from R130 to R350. Book through Computicket or call the Fugard at 021 461 4554.