Tweetingit: 4* A hugely entertaining production of a Broadway classic based on the life of performer Fanny Brice.
Funny Girl is synonymous with Barbra Streisand and her portrayal of Fanny Brice both on stage and film; the latter won her an Academy Award for Best Actress in a leading role. It turned Streisand into a global superstar and set the bar for all performers who contemplated filling her shoes. It seems barely credible the musical disappeared from the West End stage for nearly 50 years. It wasn’t until 2016 that it returned to London at the Savoy Theatre before embarking on a highly successful national tour.
The story begins with Fanny (Sheridan Smith) wistfully looking back on her life. The ever trusty flashback clicks into action, and we are back in Vaudeville with a teenage Fanny trying to prove herself. Her mother (Rachel Izen) and friend Mrs Strakosh (Myra Sands) wonder if Fanny is too plain to make it as a stage performer. However, Fanny is undaunted and succeeds with the help of dancer Eddie Ryan (Joshua Lay). She makes a name for herself as a performer and meets handsome entrepreneur Nick Arnstein (Darius Campbell). They inevitably fall in love as the trials and tribulations of their relationship are carefully plotted.
Funny Girl has the benefit of an uplifting score by Jule Styne and snappy lyrics from Bob Merrill; but also has the legacy of Streisand running through it like a stick of rock. Slick transitions drive the plot along at a satisfying pace, with some great set pieces to complement the narrative. Sheridan Smith is a very good TV actress but can she carry a major stage musical? The real measure is on the showstopping tunes like People and Don’t rain on my parade. In all honesty she totally nails it with a strong and tuneful delivery. Darius Campbell looks the part but still sounds vocally suspect. Although trivial, the height discrepancy between Smith and Campbell is glaring and quite distracting on occasion. That aside, this is a prime example of how a good musical should look and sound.
Music: Jule Styne
Lyrics: Bob Merrill
Book: Isobel Lennart
Director: Michael Mayer
Choreographer: Lynne Page
Musical Supervisor: Alan Williams
Producers: Sonia Friedman Productions/Scott Landis Productions/Menier Chocolate Factory Productions/Dante Di Loreto