The next time some curmudgeon tries to bring you down, surprise him by spontaneously singing a few bars of the song “People.” That should lift him up.

Well, maybe.

Anyway, if you need a refresher on how the tune goes, make your way to South Portland to see “Funny Girl,” the opening production of the 81st season of The Portland Players.

The well-known show is full of good tunes, though what ultimately distinguishes this production, based on Friday’s performance, is the ensemble work and the comedy.

The story is a somewhat fictionalized account of the career of early 20th-century performer Fanny Brice, a talented singer/comedienne from a Lower East Side neighborhood in New York who made it big in the Ziegfeld Follies.

The part was nailed by Barbra Streisand, both on Broadway and in the 1968 movie. And when that happens it is not easy for later performers even to hope to measure up. Cory Bucknam, by day a middle school art teacher, gave it an enthusiastic shot for the players and succeeded the most at conveying Fanny’s winning way of combining her unbridled ambition with a sort of streetwise comedic commentary.

Some of her best moments came during a seduction scene with her soon-to-be husband, Nick, in which she tries too hard to strike a sophisticated pose. Her work with the chorus girls and boys on “His Love Makes Me Beautiful” and “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat” was also very entertaining.

Mark Barrasso played the ill-fated spouse with booming gusto, while Lynne White, as Fanny’s poker-playing mother, nicely grabbed hold of a couple of numbers and didn’t let go until they sold her character’s strong influence on the lead.

Mention should also be made of John U. Robinson who, as Fanny’s performer buddy, provided some memorable song-and-dance moments. Kurt Perry also revealed a fine singing voice in one number.

Director Don Smith, who inherited his job in mid-production, got a lot of help from choreographer Celeste Green in making the ensemble numbers come alive. A live band under the direction of Rebekkah Willey also punched up things favorably when called upon.

The comedy and the show-within-a-show production numbers are what are most likely to put a smile on audience members’ faces during this show’s run. To paraphrase a tune from the show, that should keep the rain off most everyone’s parade.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.