Fanny Brice rose from humble origins to become the highest-paid American singing comedienne–a legendary Ziegfeld star. Gilbert Seldes, one of the top critics of her era, said the two performers with the greatest gift for holding an audience in the palms of their hands were Al Jolson and Fanny Brice. Brice’s fabulous life provided the inspiration for both “Funny Girl” and “Funny Lady.”
And now award-winning playwright Chip Deffaa--whose show “George M. Cohan Tonight!” has been an international success--has created a one-woman show about Brice. It features songs she made famous, like “Second Hand Rose,” “My Man,” and “Rose of Washington Square.” And there’s drama aplenty in the story of Brice’s romance with the suave, debonaire, and utterly untrustworthy Nicky Arnstein.
"One Night with Fanny Brice," which Deffaa wrote and directed Off-Broadway at St. Luke's Theater, was praised by The New York Times for delving "deeper into Brice's story" than "Funny Girl" ever did. The Associated Press acclaimed it as a "charming, fast-paced" musical.
This is the premiere recording of the show. Kimberly Faye Greenberg, star of the Off-Broadway production, brings to life the original “Funny Girl.” “One Night with Fanny Brice”–written, arranged, and originally directed in New York by Chip Deffaa–opens a window on a fantastic era in show business. Mark Goodman is the musical director/pianist on this recording; Jonathan Russell is on violin.
KIMBERLY FAYE GREENBERG (“Fanny Brice”) gained notice co-starring with Brian Childers in the long-running Off-Broadway musical “Danny and Sylvia,” at the St. Luke's Theatre in New York City. In that show she portrayed Danny Kaye’s wife, Sylvia Fine. (And in real life, incidentally, both Kaye and Fine were friends with Fanny Brice; in fact Sylvia Fine used to bring to Brice, for Brice’s approval, songs and sketches that she wrote for Danny Kaye.) Deffaa, who’d previously caught Greenberg portraying Mary Magdalene in “The Passion Play: The Musical,” was struck by Greenberg’s performance in “Danny & Sylvia.” He was also delighted to discover, in talking with her afterwards, that she shared his interest in Fanny Brice. He invited her to begin reading the material he was developing about Brice. And he soon cast her to appear in the first production of “One Night with Fanny Brice,” in New Jersey. The show's successful Off-Broadway run in New York came next. (And of course the show has also had successful regional productions.) Among Greenberg’s other favorite stage credits are “The Vagina Monologues” (Off-Broadway), and “The Kid from Brooklyn” and “Fiddler on the Roof” (regional productions). Television viewers have seen Greenberg in such programs as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Charmed,” and E.R.” She was also a host for the educational TV series “Personal Best.,” and works on the side as a voiceover artist. Portraying Fanny Brice in this new one-woman show may well be the biggest challenge she’s yet faced in her career; but it’s also, she notes, the most rewarding.
MARK GOODMAN (Musical Director/Pianist) has conducted the European tour of “West Side Story” (starring Bebe Neuwirth). And he has conducted the national tours of such musicals as “Jesus Christ Superstar” (starring Ted Neeley) and “Mame” (starring Juliet Prowse). He was assistant conductor for both the original Broadway production and the subsequent national tour of “Zorba” (starring Anthony Quinn). He was also assistant conductor for national tours of “Woman of the Year” (starring Lauren Bacall), “Evita, and “Oklahoma.” His extensive regional credits include conducting shows as Paper Mill Playhouse, Actors’ Theatre of Louisville, St. Louis Municipal Opera, Walnut Street Theatre, and the North Shore Music Theatre, And he has also been a distinguished faculty member of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), in New York City.
JONATHAN RUSSELL (Violin) has played with countless jazz notables: Wynton Marsalis, Bucky Pizzarelli, Michael Wolff, John Bunch, Les Paul, Ed Polcer, Mark Shane, Wycliffe Gordon, Doc Scanlon, Stephane Wrembel, Ron Drotos, Joe Ascione, Kevin Dorn, Andy Stein, Svend Asmussen, Vince Giordano, Dick Hyman–the list goes on.... The New York Times has written "When he solos, he embraces his instrument and enters a private cocoon, where he conjures sophisticated improvisations..." Chip Deffaa says: “There’s no living jazz violinist I enjoy more.” A musical prodigy, Russell saw a picture of a violin when he was just 18 months old, and kept saying "violin" every time he saw one—and had to have one! A Daniel Pearl Memorial Violin Honoree today, you can often find Russell at Jim Caruso’s “Cast Party,” at the New York jazz club Birdland, performing by himself or with anyone from Aaron Weinstein to Linda Lavin. Jonathan Russell has not only played often with two of the most entertaining younger singer-songwriters around, Nat and Alex Wolff (of “Naked Brothers Band” renown), he’s had the signal honor of having one of their songs (the spirited “Violin Boy,” by Nat Wolff) dedicated to him. He may be heard on such CD’s of his own as "Puttin' on the Ritz," "Duets,” and "The Sheik of Araby," Please visit: www.jonathanrussell.com.
CHIP DEFFAA (Writer/Arranger/Director) is the author of eight published books and six published plays. His show “George M. Cohan Tonight!,” which he originally wrote and directed Off-Broadway in New York at the Irish Repertory Theatre (Charlotte Moore, Artistic Director, and Ciaran O’Reilley, Producing Director), has since been produced everywhere from New Orleans to London. The New York Times hailed the show as “brash, cocky, and endlessly euphoric.” The cast album, starring Jon Peterson, is available on Sh-K-Boom / Ghostlight Records. Among Deffaa’s other shows are “The Seven Little Foys" and “The Johnny Mercer Jamboree." The cast albums for both shows, released by Original Cast Records, are available from CDBaby. (He's working on albums other shows of his, including "Theater Boys" and "Irving Berlin's America." ) All of Deffaa's plays are available for licensing; he is represented by the Fifi Oscard Agency, Inc., NYC. Deffaa’s books include “Voices of the Jazz Age” and “Blue Rhythms,” both published by the University of Illinois Press. A Princeton graduate, Deffaa is a trustee of the Princeton “Tiger” magazine.
Deffaa covered entertainment for The New York Post–writing about jazz, cabaret, and theater–for 18 years; he still occasionally contributes to The Post today. He has written liner notes for such Grammy-winning recording artists as Miles Davis, Ruth Brown, Diane Schuur, Ray Brown, Tito Puente, and Benny Goodman. This is the second CD that Deffaa has produced for Original Cast Records; the other is “The Johnny Mercer Jamboree” (OC6049), featuring Keith Anderson, Bobby Belfry, Farah Alvin, Carolyn Montgomery, Jon Peterson, and more. Deffaa is a member of the Stage Directors & Choreographers Society, the Dramatists Guild, the Drama Desk, the Jazz Journalists Society, and NARAS. He has won the ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award, the IRNE Award, and a New Jersey Press Association Award. For more information, please visit: www.chipdeffaa.com.