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Funny Girls

Leslie Kritzer, star of Off Broadway’s Rooms, has a whole other career as diva slayer.

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Scenes from Kritzer's SNL audition tape, which became a YouTube phenomenon. She honed her improv skills as a child, creating faux-radio shows with her tape recorder.  

Leslie Kritzer isn’t a diva, but she plays them to perfection: Fanny Brice (in the Paper Mill Playhouse’s 2001 production of Funny Girl); the bride, Janey, in 2008’s A Catered Affair on Broadway; and, more infamously, the indomitable Patti LuPone in her 2006 Joe’s Pub show, Leslie Kritzer Is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches, a reenactment of LuPone’s legendary 1980 cabaret act. The revue earned Kritzer a Special Achievement MAC Award—and the wrath of the musical powerhouse herself, who shut down the show. “It was fun, but I don’t want to be known as the girl who impersonates Patti LuPone,” Kritzer says. “So actually she did me a favor. Let’s just say, I’m finding somebody else to look up to.” Like her erstwhile idol, Kritzer has a magnificently ambidextrous, classically trained voice, which moves effortlessly between rock, soul, and jazz. That, together with her acid wit, is on full display at New World Stages in the two-person show Rooms: A Rock Romance, a musical set in seventies Glasgow. The self-described “Jew-Rican” (born and raised in New Jersey) appears as a Scottish Jewish singer whose dogged pursuit of fame is derailed by the alcoholic antics of her depressive collaborator-lover. “I was 23 when I did Funny Girl, and a very seasoned character actress said, ‘In a couple of years, you’ll do this role even better because you’ll have life experience.’ I now understand what she meant: I’ve been heartbroken, experienced many ups and downs. So there’s a new level I bring to this show.”

Now that she’s landed a starring role, only one goal eludes her: to become a Saturday Night Live cast member. In October, Kritzer put together an audition tape in which she depicts famous and invented personalities holding forth on the 2008 presidential election: a color-blind Liza Minnelli (“I didn’t even know Barack was black. I thought [he] was German or something”); a caffeine-addled Rachel Zoe; and, most memorably, an aspiring R&B singer named Riff-Tina, who curses a pigeon that runs off with her press-on nail. Though the tape failed to win her so much as a callback, she got a whole new fan base after she posted it on YouTube. Some of those fans have turned up at Rooms. “The other day,” says Kritzer, “someone in the audience yelled out: ‘I punched that pigeon in the face!’ ”—one of Riff-Tina’s signature lines. “It was hilarious. I was like, ‘Screw SNL.’ ”


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