Funny Girl tells the story of Fanny Brice, a charismatic and unconventional actress, comedian and singer who took Broadway by storm during the early 20th century.
She was a vaudeville superstar who refused to play the feminine ideal demanded by theatre bosses and instead presented her own goofy, charismatic self. Following her death, the original Funny Girl production debuted on Broadway in 1964 starring Barbara Streisand. A movie of the same name was released four years later for which Streisand won an Oscar.
Sheridan Smith, a superstar in her own right, plays the leading role in this production which has extensively toured around the UK following a run at the Menier Chocolate Factory and Savoy in London. Her combination of belting vocals and physical comedy is extraordinary. She moves effortlessly from a wink and a nudge punchline to a roof raising version of ‘People’. The book provides her with some excellent one-liners but it’s her own little nuances, facial expressions and ad-libs that stand out.
Smith, who temporarily left the production due to stress and exhaustion in 2016, is perfectly cast as the colourful Fanny. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing her. Both are tough, resilient and the epitome of ‘the show must go on.’
Former Pop Idol contestant Darius Campbell (remember ‘Colourblind’?) aptly plays the part of Fanny’s love interest Nick Arnstein, a suave gambler and New York socialite. His towering presence is the perfect foil for the diminutive Smith. Their chemistry was illustrated during a love scene in which Arnstein tries to seduce the awkward Brice. The pair momentarily broke and fought back the giggles to the delight of the audience.
‘Rain On My Parade’ is the stand out song and will be familiar to most. The staging is bright and fresh. With minimum fuss, we move from small time ‘Keeneys’ theatre to the bright lights of ‘Ziegfelds’ on Broadway, through railway stations, dressing rooms and across continents. The ensemble are slick and help the two and a half hour running time fly by.
But make no mistake, it is Smith who shines here and reaffirms her position as a musical theatre virtuoso. She has returned better than ever and is not to be missed.
'Funny Girl' runs at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre until Saturday, July 15th.