Watching Funny Girl – a Musical naturally synonymous with my own demeanour* – was an absolute treat. This moving tale of the ups and downs of show business is a must see for anyone who is serious about Musical Theatre – and you have only until October 8th to grab a ticket!
Over fifty years ago, the spectacular Barbara Streisand ensured that Funny Girl stands at the heart of Musical Theatre history and it is clear to see why it has gained and maintained such a position of kudos. As the name would suggest, Funny Girl is sure to get you laughing out loud… but don’t come unprepared to shed a few tears as the wonderful Sheridan Smith (Fanny Brice) guides you faithfully through an evening of immense lows as well as glorious highs.
It is my great pleasure to persuade you to go and see Funny Girl – and I’m sure you will be thrilled when you see it for yourself. However, I cannot be held to account for the accuracy of my review, so if you feel obliged to contend against my article, please refrain from doing so: this is my blog – please Don’t Rain on My Parade.
*this claim is up for friendly debate
Date of viewing: 17/09/2016
Production: Funny Girl
Seat: Stalls, R27
How cheap!?: £15 – day ticket purchased at the box office (opens 10am)
My flatmate and I were surprised and delighted to manage to nab tickets for Funny Girl, given the calibre of the celeb-studded cast – that’s right, not only did the wonderful Sheridan Smith grace the stage, but also Darius Campbell, of Pop Idol 2002 and Colourblind fame (!!!) – and yet, after rocking up to The Savoy box office shortly before 10am on a Saturday morning we were able to score two fantastic stalls tickets for just £15. Although both she and I were very excited, having heard great things about the production, neither of us knew the show particularly well – and consequently enjoyed the freshness of what we considered to be an unpredictable plot.
Less than unpredictable was the fact that it was truly fantastic. Funny Girl encompasses all a good Musical should, and more: it is a feast of tactful humour, indulgent romance as well as a tasteful portrayal of tragedy. As with many older Musicals, show business is a tautological theme which is displayed primarily through Fanny’s career in Vaudeville, giving the audience insight into the raw realities of life in the world of theatre. It is a prime example which destroys the poorly generalised misconception that Musical Theatre is cheesy and smiley – and instead gives way to a truly deep and emotional storyline which speaks directly into the heart of real life tragedies. The convincing portrayal of such emotional depth was undoubtedly due to the masterful performance of Sheridan Smith as the whimsical Fanny Brice.
Quite frankly, Sheridan Smith is perfect for the role of Fanny Brice. She exudes energy so naturally and is greatly expressive. Particularly, Sheridan is expert in her ability to draw the audience to latch onto her own emotional state – if she laughs, we laugh; if she cries, we cry. Her performance is utterly captivating and totally versatile, which is clear from her ability to play to the response and the warmth of the audience. Just like Fanny, Sheridan’s stage presence is unquestionable – a crowd-pleaser in the most delightful sense of the word.
“Sheridan Smith is perfect”
Although Sheridan does, quite rightly, steal the show, she plays alongside a cast-full of talents, including the dreamy Darius Campbell who plays Nick Arnstein. Nick Arnstein is a cruel but sexy character who charms Fanny (and us!) shamelessly. Darius’ portrayal was smooth and sophisticated and despite not undertaking a dancing role, he moved well and effortlessly. His New York accent was sketchy at times, but the implications of this small vocal error were forgotten every time he opened his mouth to sing and a warm, silky tone soared henceforth. Arnstein is the sort of man one loves to hate, and, in his utter gorgeousness, Darius made it much easier for the audience to love him.
The romantic leads are supported well by a very competent cast who contribute neatly to the glitz and glamour of the performance. Two actors who stood out as part of the wider ensemble are Joel Montague as Fanny’s doting friend, Eddie Ryan and Marilyn Cutts who played Fanny’s mother. Although Joel’s execution of movement was not always completely tidy, he danced with showmanship and gave an uplifting performance. Marilyn, as Mrs Brice, gave a very different kind of performance, as a bold and brash mother. She radiates a confidence and experience not readily attributed to many younger members of the cast and convincingly acts as a mother like figure to more than just Fanny.
“A piece which epitomises the ups and downs of show-business”
The Savoy is often considered notable for its elegant simplicity, and this show allowed it no exception – the individual production elements (that is, lighting and staging) were mostly basic. However, worthy of particular mention was a unique effect cause by mirror slates placed against the wing barriers which allowed the reflection of actors to be seen as they sang or danced. The effect achieved was beautifully haunting as it removed the figures from immediate reality and reflected them artistically as dream-like entities.
I implore you to watch Funny Girl before it transfers, and to enjoy the delight that is Sheridan Smith. A piece which epitomises the ups and downs of show-business, Funny Girl is full of raw, wonderful emotion and is bound to provide you with a night to remember.