Theater & Dance
Profile
Melissa WolfKlain

Current show: "Funny Girl"
By: Music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, book by Isobel Lennart
Produced by: Hillbarn Theatre
Featuring: Melissa WolfKlain as Fanny Brice, William Giammona as Nick Arnstein, with Rachelle Abbey, Richard Ames, Christine Baker, Justin Buchs, Jennifer Butler, Becca Carteris, Stephanie Case, Tracy Chiappone, Paige Collazo, Steven Ennis, Matt Gill, Dennis Lickteig, Emily Mannion, Jessica Maxey, Maureen O’Neill, Regina Quigley and Jon Toussaint
Directed by: Dan Demers
Creative team: Music director Joe Murphy, choreographer James Zongus, scenic designer Kuo-Hao Lo, lighting designer Don Coluzzi, costume designer Lisa Cross, sound designer Alan Chang, hair and makeup designer Dee Morrissey and properties designer A.J. Diggins.
When: August 28 through September 21, 2014. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays
Where: Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Boulevard, Foster City, California
Tickets: $23-$42. Call 650-349-6411, extension 2 or visit www.hillbarntheatre.org.

See Tracy Martin's video of the "Funny Girl" sitzprobe, when the cast and the orchestra get their first chance to rehearse together.

Read Paul Freeman's interview of Melissa WolfKlain and Dan Demers in The Daily News.
Peter Pan
Broadway By The Bay
Melissa WolfKlain as Peter Pan in Broadway by the Bay's production of "Peter Pan," which ran during July and August 2002.
Thoroughly Modern Millie
Mark Kitaoka / Broadway By The Bay
Melissa WolfKlain as Millie (center) is surrounded by the stenographers in the 2008 Broadway by the Bay production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie."
Tinyard Hill
Mark Kitaoka / TheatreWorks
Melissa WolfKlain as Aileen Garrett, left, and Allison Briner as Aunt May in the world premiere of "Tinyard Hill," which ran July 15 through August 16, 2009, at TheatreWorks. Photo Credit: Mark Kitaoka
Singin' in the Rain
Diablo Theatre Company
Ryan Drummond, Melissa WolfKlain and Keith Pinto in "Singin' in the Rain," staged by Diablo Theatre Company in February 2013.

Funny Girl
Tracy Martin / Hillbarn Theatre
Melissa WolfKlain as Fanny Brice in Hillbarn Theatre's production of Funny Girl," running August 28 through September 21, 2014.
'Funny Girl': Melissa WolfKlain
returns home from New York
to star as Fanny Brice
Show kicks off Dan Demers' first season as executive artistic director of Hillbarn Theatre
August 29, 2014

Melissa WolfKlain, professional actor, singer and dancer, has never seen "Funny Girl."

Not the movie, not on stage.

"That makes you a freak of nature," I kindly tell her, during our phone conversation.

"That's OK," she responded. "I'll take being a freak. I just did 'Shrek' in Southern California. Being a freak works for that."

"Shrek," by the way, "is a lot of fun," she said. "Songs people don't really know. That made it more fun."

But back to this "Funny Girl" thing.

WolfKlain, you see, is starring as Fanny Brice in the Hillbarn Theatre production of "Funny Girl," which previewed last night, and opened tonight.

WolfKlain said that when the Hillbarn run is over, then she will watch the movie that helped make Barbra Streisand a super nova among stars.

In the meantime, "I'm trying not to have Barbra's voice in my head," WolfKlain said, "or the way she said things."

Instead, WolfKlain is going back to the source, in a way, watching videos of the real Fanny Brice on YouTube.

"It's interesting to see her acting. She was a very broad character actor, but still grounded in reality. I like that about her."

Which is a factor in why WolfKlain is enjoying doing this show.

"It's a huge part," she said. "I really like that she's a leading lady, but also a character part. You don't see that in many shows.

"I think I'm pretty funny, I like to make people laugh. It's going to be fun to carry the show."

Like so many theater professionals, WolfKlain lives in New York, more or less.

Theater uses the same central-market model of the French agricultural system, where everything goes to Paris, and out from there; and the Fedex model — everything goes to Memphis, and out from there.

Theater people go to New York, to be found, or to find. Theater companies from all around the nation go there, audition people, then ship them home to whatever production, wherever.

But as it happens, WolfKlain was in Foster City in March, for her sister Ashley's engagement party, when Hillbarn Executive Director Dan Demers called and asked if she would be interested in doing "Funny Girl."

So, doing this show is a homecoming for WolfKlain. She is staying with her parents, Lisa and Matthew, in Foster City, maybe a half-mile from the theater.

WolfKlain grew up in the area.

"At San Mateo High School I first did 'Smile,' and then played Winthrop in 'The Music Man,' as a freshman, which was a ton of fun. Then I did 'The Good Doctor,' 'Into the Woods,' 'Anything Goes' and '42nd Street,' and finished up playing Cinderella in 'Cinderella' and Puck in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' The last one was especially fun because my brother was a freshman, and he played Flute/Thisbe and stole the show!"

And, she did shows with Peninsula Civic Light Opera, working out of that same grungy old auditorium at San Mateo High, which she remembers with fondness. I do not. It has, however, been refurbished since last I was there. And Peninsula Civic Light Opera has also gone through considerable refurbishment, and is now known as Broadway By The Bay, and operates out of the lovely old Fox Theatre in Redwood City.

Get all that?

"My first show at PCLO was 'Crazy For You,'" WolfKlain said. "I was in the ensemble and I was very honored just to be in the show. The great thing about that is I played Polly in 'Crazy for You' with Broadway By the Bay however many years later."

She did lots of other theater in the Bay Area before decamping for New York, including creating the role of Aileen in the world premiere of "Tinyard Hill" at TheatreWorks in 2009. She was excellent in that role, nailing the complex melodies of that show's challenging score.

WolfKlain's done stage work all over California, and has appeared in movies and in TV shows.

She said she's enjoying living at home with parents Lisa and Matthew, in Foster City, with a very short commute to the Hillbarn for rehearsals, with director Dan Demers, who is also the big boss at Hillbarn.

"He's great," WolfKlain said. "I really like working with him. We'd never met, before just recently. It helps that he's a good performer. It helps him be a good director."

"Funny Girl" kicks off Hillbarn's 2014-15 season, and its first with Demers as executive artistic director, following the exit-stage-East-Coast of Lee Foster, who built Hillbarn into the impressive production house it is now. Small theater (only 179 seats), but huge shows.

There's been some work done inside, to make room for the rather large orchestra (19 pieces!) that will accompany this show. And the creative team is impressive: Demers directing (and he does excellent work), new music director Joe Murphy (Greg Sudmeier left with Foster, his wife), choreographer James Zongus, the great scenic designer Kuo-Hao Lo, lighting designer Don Coluzzi, costume designer Lisa Cross, sound designer Alan Chang, hair and makeup designer Dee Morrissey, and properties designer A.J. Diggins.

The cast includes William Giammona as Nick Arnstein; and Rachelle Abbey, Richard Ames, Christine Baker, Justin Buchs, Jennifer Butler, Becca Carteris, Stephanie Case, Tracy Chiappone, Paige Collazo, Steven Ennis, Matt Gill, Dennis Lickteig, Emily Mannion, Jessica Maxey, Maureen O’Neill, Regina Quigley and Jon Toussaint.

Altogether ... a fine parade of talent. Demers, we think, really wants to make a splash with his first show as boss. We think he'll succeed.

Email John Orr at johnorr@regardingarts.com

Funny Girl
Mark Kitaoka / Hillbarn Theatre
The entire company sings of Fanny Brice's success in the number "Henry Street" in Hillbarn Theatre's production of "Funny Girl," August 28 through September 21, 2014.


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