Reviews, Theatre

Review: Funny Girl at the Savoy Theatre

Its been a truth universally acknowledged that the only actress capable of portraying Fanny Brice on stage or film is the one and only Barbara Streisand. No one could possibly fill her shoes and belt out Don’t Rain on My Parade – so why even try?

Maybe that is why it has taken so long for Fanny to return to the West End, last seen in 1966.

Any attempt at a revival was going to have to overcome one massive obstacle: the Barbara factor. The barbarometer perhaps. On a scale of 1 to Babs, where does Sheridan Smith fall?

The answer is nowhere. The greatest compliment one can give this production is to say that Smith is not Streisand. She is Smith and, trust me, that is a wonderful thing.

With an effervescent warmth and a cracker of a voice, Smith is lovable from the moment she walks on stage, effortlessly embodying Fanny’s charm and vulnerability, mixed in with a few belting musical numbers.

The musical lives and dies on Fanny’s portrayer but with Sheridan at the helm this production cannot fail. The love for Smith in the audience is palpable, and half the young girls at stage door were in tears just at the prospect of getting her autograph. Incredible and inspiring:  I could wax lyrical about her fantastic performance but I won’t – for lack of space as much as my fear of boring you.

Funny Girl is a funny sort of musical. All of the best numbers are in the first half leaving it feeling lopsided, although the emotional punch is saved until the end.

‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ is undeniably the standout performance of the production, although special note must be made to the vocal performance of Darius Campbell who, although in a limited role, manages to do a lot more than Omar Sharif ever did in the film, both in his vocals and acting.

With simple but effective staging and a wonderful ensemble it’s an excellent production, if a little rough around the edges. Some of the dance numbers could be tightened up though I expect this could be put down to first night jitters (I attended the first preview since it moved to the Savoy theatre from the Menier Chocolate Factory).

All in all, if Sheridan wasn’t a star already, she’s definitely soaring now. I suggest you get down to see her whilst you can, no doubt she and the rest of the cast and crew will be crossing the pond to set up camp on Broadway in no time.

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