What’s it all about?
It’s about Sheridan Smith proving that Barbra Streisand doesn’t have the monopoly on playing Fanny Brice to wide acclaim. Oh, that’s a bold statement, I know, but I’ll stand by it.
It’s also about unlikely Broadway performer Brice – she doesn’t fit the long-legged elegance generally expected at the time – rising from humble beginnings to become one of the entertainment industry’s brightest stars, and her love affair with unapologetic gambler Nick Arnstein.
Who’s in it?
Smith, who proves yet again that she’s one of our greatest stage talents. Yes, playing a stage comedian gives her the opportunity to allow her beat-perfect comic timing to shine. Yes, she finds all the irrepressible self-belief in a character who won’t consider no as an answer. Yes, she mines the moments of heartbreak for all they’re worth. But through all of that, it’s her unique, natural, unassuming charisma that leaps off the stage and smacks you straight in the heart.
Darius Campbell oozes slick charm as the dashing love interest Nick Arnstein, while Joel Montague is all grudgingly accepted unrequited love and tap shoes as best friend-who-wants-more Eddie Ryan.
What should I look out for?
Lynne Page’s choreography, especially for the opening night party at Mrs Brice’s saloon, where aging Jewish matriarchs shimmy like showgirls.
Matthew Goodgame pulling a sly ‘Cumberbomb’ as a photo is snapped. Blink and you’ll miss it.
Smith sending a shiver right down your spine with her rendition of the joy-filled, yearning People.
Who was in the opening night crowd?
A pair of Smith’s former sitcom co-stars, Alison Steadman (Gavin And Stacey) and Sue Johnston (The Royle Family), popped in for the press night, along with Caitlin Moran and David Baddiel.
In a nutshell?
I’m The Greatest Star sings Funny Girl’s Fanny Brice; Sheridan Smith proves she is just that.
What’s being said on Twitter?
— Jane Ogilvie (@OgilvieJane) April 21, 2016
Last show I saw at The Savoy was Imelda Staunton being astonishing in Gypsy. Sheridan Smith easily her equal #FunnyGirl
— Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran) April 20, 2016
Will I like it?
Feel free to disagree with me here, but I’d argue Funny Girl’s plot is a tad on the light side. Fanny’s struggle is not so much with outside forces – she pretty much gets what she wants without breaking a sweat – but with her own emotions and drive.
You’ll like it if you want to see a bona fide brilliant stage performance from an actress who could well break Dame Judi Dench’s record of Olivier wins by the end of her career, provided she’s not seduced by Hollywood. Smith has taken an iconic character and made Fanny Brice her own. Barbra who?