There’s something to be said about musicals based on true stories. It gives them another dimension, far removed from the glitzy stereotype people believe musicals to be.
Fanny Brice was a born to Jewish Hungarian parents who’d emigrated to America and made a good life for themselves. She on the other hand favoured show business and the rest as they say is history.
But this is not a Cinderella story. Directed by Michael Mayer and with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill and book by Isobel Lennart, Funny Girl is a heartfelt tale of a young woman who dared to be different, but it’s also about love, family and the theatre. It’s poignant, funny and even glitzy.
Sheridan Smith was born to play this role. Having seen her take on the character, it’s impossible to think that anyone else could. Her facial expressions, humour and personality shine through and she plays up to the audience as Fanny would, especially during Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat when she has to deal with a wayward moustache, glasses and a gun.
Her acting is exceptional; there are times when a slight change in her expression is all that’s needed to send the audience into paroxysms of mirth – especially when she sits on Nick’s lap and we know exactly what she’s feeling, in all senses of the word! Her singing is fantastic, her take on the role is unique and her rendition of ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’ is as powerful as ‘People’ is moving.
Darius Campbell (Nick Arnstein) complements Smith nicely in both style and voice, although it’s far from an exciting role, while it’s lovely to see Mr Keeney played by Maurice Lane who appeared in the original West End production with Barbra Streisand.
In fact the whole cast is exceptional, from Philip Bertioli and Luke Fetherston as the cheeky chappy Cornet Men, to Mrs Brice (Marilyn Cutts) and her gossiping, poker-playing ladies (Gay Soper and Vakda Aviks). The duet between Mrs Brice and Eddie (Joel Montague) is touching and the ensemble scenes are delightful, with Lynne Page’s fantastic choreography beautifully executed.
This is a faultless production that will make you laugh, might make you cry and is likely to leave you feeling empowered – once again Sheridan Smith has outdone herself.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement Hayes
Photo: Johan Persson
Funny Girl is booking at the Savoy Theatre until 8 October. Tickets