What’s it all about?
It was, circa 1964, all about Barbra Streisand. Back then, Streisand was deemed the only actress who could possibly portray the gutsy, witty, ambitious protagonist in Jule Styne’s comedy musical.
Now, as the 50-year-old piece gets a rare revival at the Menier Chocolate Factory, it’s all about Sheridan Smith, the two-time Olivier Award winner and star of Gavin And Stacey whose versatility as an actress makes her the perfect choice for the role of Fanny Brice.
The musical itself follows plain-faced Fanny as she wangles her way on to the stage and into the affections of her audiences. But as charming gambler Nick Arnstein enters her life, Fanny’s growing success is also met with love and, eventually, heartbreak.
Who’s in it?
We’ve already covered this, but so good is Smith’s performance we’re happy to keep talking… Her last musical performance was in 2009’s Legally Blonde The Musical, for which she won the prestigious Best Actress in a Musical Award at the Olivier Awards with MasterCard, and we wouldn’t be all too surprised to see her name read out at a few more theatre awards ceremonies over the next year.
The Cilla star captures the Funny in Funny Girl better than anyone could ever have imagined, bringing the quirky and determined Fanny to life with plenty of pizzazz, buckets of wit and many a tuneful treat. And when her performance takes a melancholic turn in the second act, she has as much talent for moving audiences to tears as she does for making them cry with laughter. This truly is Smith at her most versatile and sublime.
She is joined in the cast by, among others, Darius Campbell as a suave Nick, Marilyn Cutts as Fanny’s enthusiastic and proud mother, and a light-footed Joel Montague as Eddie Ryan.
What should I look for?
Bob Merrill’s laugh-inducing lyrics. He rhymes incidentals with lentils. Enough said.
An over-enthusiastic swipe of a fan, courtesy of Smith, which has the audience in stitches.
In a nutshell?
Sheridan Smith gives one of the best musical performances of the year, more than living up to Barbra Streisand’s career-defining performance as the determined, loveable and hilarious Fanny Brice.
What’s being said on Twitter?
— Gene David Kirk (@GeneDavidKirk) December 2, 2015
Just been to watch funny girl at the Menier Chocolate Factory and it was breath taking! Can’t put into words how amazing! #funnygirl
— annabelle ‘ruth (@argater) December 2, 2015
Will I like it?
If we could wrap up Smith’s performance – and we do love a bit of wrapping here at Official London Theatre, you may have noticed – we would, just to be able to unwrap it every time we were feeling a little gloomy. Such is Smith’s ability to make us smile with every cheeky shrug and facial scrunch, we would, in fact, wrap it up and bring it all the way to the West End where even more theatre fans could enjoy her phenomenal performance. Oh wait…
Funny Girl is playing at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 5 March 2016 before transferring to the Savoy Theatre. Tickets for the current run are sold out but you can book tickets for the West End transfer, which begins on 9 April, through us.