Some shows are made or broken by their lead actor, and that is certainly the case with Funny Girl, the recent Broadway revival of which is now on tour and opened this week at SF's Orpheum Theatre.

The biographical musical of early 20th Century comic legend Fanny Brice premiered in 1964 starring a young Barbra Streisand — and it would turn out to be a star-making vehicle for Streisand, who would also star in the film version and earn her first Oscar for the role.

After running on Broadway with both Beanie Feldstein and Lea Michelle in the lead role, this first-ever U.S. revival comes to San Francisco with the terrifically talented Katerina McCrimmon  in the role of Fanny, and Grammy winner Melissa Manchester as her mother. And McKrimmon brings plenty of star power to the production, despite being a relative unknown — much like Barbra was in 1964.

The show traces the rise of Brice's career from burlesque revues and the Ziegfeld Follies to Broadway and later radio and film fame. Though primarily we only see the first part of her career in the show, and how she was both bolstered and tormented by her relationship with gambler and investor Nicky Arnstein (played by the winsome Stephen Mark Lukas, who understudied the role on Broadway).

Funny Girl contains a number of classic Broadway tunes by the great Jules Styne, including "I'm the Greatest Star," "If a Girl Isn't Pretty," "People," and "Don't Rain on My Parade." And if it were not for the fact that McKrimmon has some serious vocal chops and can belt her way through the big numbers and finesse her way through the quieter ones with seeming ease, this show would fall flat. She is most certainly a star in the making, and everyone should see her in this show while they can.

Katerina McCrimmon  and Stephen Mark Lukas in 'Funny Girl.' Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

McCrimmon comes through in spades, and is supported by Lukas and Manchester, who are both extremely strong singers in their own right.

The role is also a pretty serious acting challenge as well, demanding that the star have the comedic tone and timing of old-school Jewish humor, enough that you're convinced why Fannie Brice became a star in the first place. And without channeling young Barbra directly, McCrimmon also excels at bringing Brice to life between the song and dance numbers.

This lavish production, directed by Michael Mayer and choregraphed by Ellenore Scott, conjures classic Broadway musical comedy moments in every scene. The set design by David Zinn is also a master class in quick-change, vintage-looking backdrops and evokes about a dozen different locales.

The reason to see Funny Girl, though, is really McCrimmon. Would that this were a Broadway debut, she would be getting major accolades, and no doubt those accolades will come. A fairly recent graduate of Florida State University's musical theater program, McCrimmon only has one Broadway credit under her belt (The Rose Tattoo), but clearly the casting director for this tour saw a rising star who could carry such a show. Even the talented Beanie Feldstein earned fairly poor reviews two years ago, which led to Lea Michelle stepping in and earning raves.

Hopefully McCrimmon finds another role as suited to her comedic and singing talents as Fanny Brice, so that the theater world gets to know her better.

Funny Girl plays through May 26 at the Orpheum. Find tickets here.

Top photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade